Whitby, Ont. mortgage broker starts initiative to support small businesses amid coronavirus pandemic

A Whitby woman is trying to help other small business owners in her community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mortgage broker Denise Laframboise has been affected by the outbreak and understands what businesses are going through.

So she wanted to do something to help, flipping COVID-19 into Love-19. The initiative aims to support local businesses by purchasing gift cards.

“I wanted to bring some awareness to some of those local businesses and show them that we love them,” said Laframboise.

Laframboise launched Love-19 with other mortgage brokers across the country to show support for local businesses in each of their communities.

Residents nominate local shops that could use a financial boost. The goal is to help out 19 businesses by purchasing $50 gift cards from those establishments and then a draw is held to give them away.

“In the first 48 hours I had 56 businesses nominated,” Laframboise said. “There’s a website and people nominate businesses they’d like to see us support, which is really cool because they share all these stories about why they love them or why they miss them or how they’re making their life feel normal now.”

Fran’s Café is one of the businesses recommended.

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Fran Steyn has been operating Frantastic Events and Café in Whitby for eight years. Like most other small business owners, she’s fallen on hard times since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“The core part of my business, which is corporate catering and big gatherings, was the first to shut down,” said Steyn.

She was forced to lay off all her staff, although she’s been able to keep her café open.

“For me right now, it was important for me to focus on what we can do and how I can provide single-serving meals, helping people out in their homes,” said Steyn. “We’re offering curbside pickup, set up safe areas outside that people can call ahead and pre-order.”

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“It’s just so cool to see how much she supports the community and how much people appreciate that,” said Laframboise.

Steyn called the support from Laframboise a “blessing.”

“It’s an absolute blessing because not only is she supporting small businesses but she’s also highlighting these businesses and that’s important for businesses, in general, to be top of mind so people can think about you and they can reach out and support you if they’re able to,” said Steyn.

Laframboise has received nominations for all kinds of businesses — restaurants, spas, home care and escape rooms. She’d love to support them all but isn’t sure she can at this time.

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