VANCOUVER -- It has been a rough year for local businesses. The pandemic has brought many to their knees but there is a growing spirit of cooperation to help raise them up.

In order to survive, many small businesses need to transition to online sales and innovate to attract new customers. But some do not have the expertise or the resources to do so.

One iconic Chinese fine dining restaurant with four locations in the Vancouver area found itself in just that situation. When the pandemic hit, it was not prepared to pivot and business was way down.

“Maybe 60 per cent,” said Jason Chan of the Kirin Restaurant Group. “We do some take out, but it didn’t form the bulk of our business.”

The company admits its website was lacking and nearly obsolete, until Apply Digital stepped in to help.

“They were struggling," said Gautam Lohia, Apply's CEO. "They were really struggling.” 

Apply has the resources and expertise in the digital world of e-commerce. The company typically deals with larger corporations like Arc’teryx, Electronic Arts and Disney, but the CEO and staff felt compelled assist a few small businesses in Vancouver in order to help them survive COVID-19.

“We helped them understand how to launch online, how to sell it online, how to build social awareness,” said Lohia.

Kirin pivoted in its strategy and instead of just offering its popular food in restaurants, is now selling frozen dim sum to the public. It has launched a new website to order frozen dim sum for delivery or pickup and has established a relationship with T&T Supermarkets to sell it in grocery stores. Chan credits Lohia and his team for helping to make that happen.

“He was very generous with us with his time,” said Chan.

Kirin Restaurants were not the only ones to benefit. Vancouver Foodie Tours’ business screeched to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We hadn’t even thought about how to survive but just that this is the right thing to do,” said Michelle Ng, who started the company in 2010.

Apply helped Ng transition to Granville Island Delivery Co., packaging up, selling, and delivering unique Granville Island Market products.

“They have been a huge, huge, part of our pivot to Granville Island Delivery,” she said.

Apply has donated its time in the past as part of an annual effort to give back to the community and this year, it believed the businesses that give neighborhoods their unique flavour needed the help.

“We want to see the individuality of these unique restaurants, these proprietors, survive. So it’s critical,” said Lohia.

And the beneficiaries are grateful.

“He spared no effort into helping us,” said Chan.

“We really, really, appreciate their support,” added Ng.