By Maureen Latta
The past four years have seen big changes for Melissa Call’s Sunshine Organics business. After seven years of operating a warehouse-based, home-delivery service, Melissa opened the Sunshine Organics/Ecossentials bulk organic whole foods store at 4726 Marine Avenue four years ago to take what she calls the “get unpackaged idea” even further. She introduced bulk refillable cleaners with the aim to grow the business and help reduce Powell River’s waste.
Adding employees with assistance from Career Link’s Wage Subsidy Service (WSS) was a key part of the business’s growth. Melissa’s business qualified for the wage subsidy provided by The Employment Program of BC to employers who hire and train eligible job seekers. Melissa has used the program three times, most recently to provide management jobs for Jenny Allen-Taves and Nadine Gagnon.
“It’s a great team we have here now,” Melissa says. “I’m really grateful for how it’s come about.”
Melissa says she’s more of an idea person than a meticulous planner, so sitting down with Mark Lemna, Career Link’s Wage Subsidy Service Coordinator, to establish an on-the-job training plan was very helpful. “I did enjoy setting that up and having the plan as a reference,” Melissa says. “It definitely helps to have that kind of structure.”
The skills that Jenny and Nadine have brought to the business have been invaluable. Jenny was on maternity leave at the time of her placement, which made her eligible for WSS placement because of her Employment Insurance (EI) status. A graduate of the Display and Design Program at Langara College in Vancouver, Jenny needed some real-world experience in business operations and marketing.
“I’d studied marketing in school, but hadn’t had an opportunity to be in charge of it,” Jenny says. “[WSS] provided me with an opportunity that I might not have gotten otherwise because merchandising and marketing jobs aren’t a dime a dozen.” Hired two years ago, Jenny is now in charge of the business’s commercial accounts, social media promotions, advertising concepts and store displays.
Nadine was eager to learn new things and to focus on what she loves, which is customer service. “I basically learned how the store runs by being in it, with Melissa helping me along the way. You kind of do everything here.” She learned how to use Excel, order products and establish relationships with suppliers and customers. Nadine is always ready to help out a customer, whether that means printing off a recipe or searching for new gluten free products.
Both Jenny and Nadine transitioned into permanent management positions at Sunshine Organics/Ecossentials after their subsidy periods ended. Nadine has been in her position for over two years, and she appreciates the flexibility that allows her to work full-time hours within a four-day work week.
Jenny says the WSS has been a huge benefit to her and to Melissa. “I was able to learn more and do what I really enjoy doing, and Melissa was able to allocate work that she wouldn’t have had the time to do on her own.”
Today, with a busy staff of five, Melissa has a solid team in place to expand her business again. She is currently establishing the Suncoast Grown brand, stocking more fresh produce from local growers, and researching ways to set up a network to connect agricultural producers around Powell River and the Comox Valley with customers who are looking for locally grown food.