Entrepreneurs lead the way to an even sunnier Sunshine Coast - BC Marketplace

It’s not only tourists and day-trippers who are drawn to the Sunshine Coast, known as a little slice of paradise in B.C. In recent years, an influx of new permanent residents—especially younger people—has helped to revitalize and refresh the coastal communities of the region.

Many of the newcomers have been families, drawn to the Coast by the laidback lifestyle and more affordable housing options compared to nearby Vancouver. A new wave of entrepreneurs and remote workers has also been attracted by local business initiatives like the This is the Coast campaign. The region is perfect for people who can bring their job with them or embrace their entrepreneurial side and start their own business.

The benefits to the broader Sunshine Coast community are clear. Successful entrepreneurs:

It’s not just newcomers who are building businesses and creating jobs. Long-time residents are also launching thriving businesses.

Pam Robertson, a seasoned business owner on the Sunshine Coast, is one of them. Ironically, given many people moved to the area to escape rising house prices, Pam’s newest business venture addresses a lack of affordable housing on the Coast.

Already managing a construction safety consulting business on the Sunshine Coast, Pam saw how many people were struggling to find somewhere to rent, let alone buy. “I thought I had to do something,” she says. “I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to do it.”

With a background in construction, she turned to the growth in popularity of so-called “tiny homes”. She initially intended to build a tiny home park, but pivoted to designing and building tiny homes for a growing client base through her company Sunshine Tiny Homes, established in 2018 in Port Mellon. The homes might be tiny, but their impact could be huge. One of her first clients was a nurse who would have otherwise had to leave the community.

Pam’s growing business is a textbook example of what entrepreneurs can bring to a community. As well as running a business that helps the Sunshine Coast retain key workers, she tries to source all of her materials locally and makes a point of employing local youth.

Sunshine Tiny Homes is just one of the businesses enriching life on the Sunshine Coast. Here are some other new entrepreneurs who have brought ideas and energy to the region:

Mycelyum, Sechelt

Few businesses do a better job of showcasing the diversity of businesses on the Sunshine Coast than Mycelyum. Vancouver transplant Joy Dutcher and co-founder Jimmy Zuzinjak brought the growing trend of “functional mushrooms”—mushrooms with specific health benefits—to the Coast. They pack thousands of years of Eastern herbal and dietary traditions into their range of mushroom gummies, snacks, and other treats.

The wonderfully-named Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, and Reishi mushrooms in the gummies provide a tasty way to boost the immune system and focus the mind.

Beachcomber Coffee, Gibsons

Founded in 2015, Beachcomber Coffee is a craft coffee company with two locations in Gibsons. The company’s “It’s not just a coffee, it’s a lifestyle” mission and delicious coffee has earned it awards, kudos, and a loyal following of caffeine quaffers.

Coffee shops have long been focal points of small communities, and Beachcomber Coffee is no exception. Their main location is a welcoming, modern space in the centre of Gibsons that serves a variety of Certified Organic and Certified Fairtrade coffees. Because one cup is never enough, Beachcomber To Go is a “micro-cafe” for people to stop off on their way up the coast for coffee and donuts.

Sunday Cider, Gibsons 

The friends and cider lovers behind Sunday Cider craft cider fermented from 100% fresh-pressed B.C. apples. Owners Clinton McDougall and Patrick Connelly are Vancouver transplants who run the cidery, along with a 20-acre biodynamic farm, with their families. While their farm yields some of the apples that go into their ciders, most are sourced from Okanagan orchards.

While their cider isn’t just for Sundays, Sunday Cider isn’t just for cider. The cidery is a great example of entrepreneurs supporting other entrepreneurs on the Coast. Visitors to their outdoor cider bar and picnic area can also buy food and treats from local food trucks, such as Salt & Swine, Bruno’s Burgers, and Little Spoon Ice Cream. A collection of foodtrepreneurs that pretty much covers all the food groups.

El Segundo, Sechelt

Sechelt restaurant El Segundo was a finalist in two categories of the 2021 Small Business BC Awards—Best Community Impact and Premier’s People’s Choice. The restaurant was started by two local women and moms, Scarlet Osborne and Heidi Murphy. The entrepreneurial duo didn’t let a pandemic ruin their dream of bringing a fresh dining experience to the Sunshine Coast.

COVID 19 struck before they could get the doors open, delaying it by three months until July 2020. After that initial setback, they hired 35 staff before being hit hard by continuing restrictions on dining-in due to COVID. That period also highlighted a crucial flaw in the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) programs; they entirely excluded new business. The fledgling business owners got to work forming a group of 23 restaurants to lobby the government for change, leading to their Best Community Impact nomination.

Now open again for indoor and outdoor dining, the busy restaurant shows how entrepreneurs can become valuable and active members of a community where long-term jobs are not always easy to find.

As Sunshine Tiny Homes owner Pam Robertson likes to say, “Never lose, just win or learn.” There’s a lot of winning and learning happening on the Sunshine Coast these days. Find more Sunshine Coast businesses at the BC Marketplace.

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