Island COMEBACK is a digital main street for the businesses and organizations of over 18 rural islands of British Columbia (BC).
Francine Carlin is the project lead and founding chair of the Rural Islands Economic Partnership (RIEP) that created this digital hub as a pandemic response and recovery program for BC’s rural islands.
“Once we obtained seed funding in April, we worked flat out. We now have 141 sign-ups and counting[…] and in 2021, we will be expanding the site to build upon a directory offering full e-commerce shopping. Our goal is to create a rural islands digital main street where visitors can access all services, and our aim is to have 80 per cent of all businesses and non-profit organizations on each island eventually listed with Island COMEBACK. This initiative will generate immediate funds for island businesses and community organizations through the long-term platform that has been created for obtaining gift certificate purchases and making donations.”
Fred Shadian of Saturna’s Kayaking Skills and Vibrational Greens, and his partner, Ruth Daber, were among the first businesses to sign up.
“The Island COMEBACK campaign is a great initiative to encourage people to shop and support local businesses. When you shop local, you are creating a ripple effect of cash flow to circulate in the local community.”
Francine speaks about how the Island COMEBACK website came together in just 7 weeks after receiving funding:
“When Covid-19 hit full-on, a friend called me and said, can’t you do something similar to what Cornwall, Ontario has done? Check it out. I did and then called a RIEP board meeting and we agreed to pursue the idea. We made calls to contacts across the islands as well as seeking seed funding from sponsors. Before long, our very talented project team of contractors were at work, donating hours and discounting their fees.”
The site went live on May 27, 2020, and has been an integral part of economic resilience across BC’s rural islands with many small business success stories attributed to its existence.