Barbara Dobbyn, of Barbara Anne Photography, says she pursued her dream business during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Barbara Dobbyn, of Barbara Anne Photography, says she pursued her dream business during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

COVID-19 leading to more home-based businesses in Nanaimo

People deciding to pursue dream businesses amidst pandemic

Barbara Dobbyn saw the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to pursue her dreams, and she isn’t looking back.

Dobbyn, who owns home-based business Barbara Anne Photography, told the News Bulletin her previous job in mall real estate was draining, and wanted to move in a new direction. Her business licence was granted last February.

“It’s one of those things that I’ve done for years and I’ve always wanted to run it as a business,” Dobbyn said. “But I was working full time in the corporate world and during the past year, I realized that, with COVID, I was really getting burned out and I wasn’t enjoying my job … I just looked at it and thought, ‘Life’s too short,’ and it’s time to follow my dream.”

While business operations in Nanaimo saw restrictions and temporary closures in 2021, the amount of business licences granted increased, said Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. It is difficult to assess how many businesses closed due to the pandemic, but 2021 saw “a flurry of businesses opening” and “a tremendous number of home-based businesses,” he said.

Based on numbers from the City of Nanaimo, home-based business licences increased to 508 in 2021 from 423 in 2020 and overall, 992 business licences were issued in 2021, compared to 822 in 2020.

While people were expecting a lot of business closures, that wasn’t exactly what ended up happening, according to Smythe.

“What we most popularly think happened is that people were sent to work from home, given time off, leave, things like that, and when they had that time on their hands, that pet project of theirs finally started, they started to think … ‘I can start building those widgets’ … and they started businesses,” said Smythe.

Heidi Davidson, city manager of permit centre and business licensing development approvals, expressed similar sentiments, stating that home-based businesses have been on the incline.

“I think that people were in lockdown and just getting creative,” said Davidson. “We’ve got so many amazing home-based business applications coming through. It’s fun to look at … people are getting really innovative. It’s nice to see that side of the economy is still growing. There’s a lot of enthusiasm, I think, for establishing your own business.”

Dobbyn said a difficult part of opening a business in pandemic times is the inability to meet people and network, but she has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t have changed my decision … I love being here with my kids, having a more flexible schedule through building my business,” said Dobbyn. “It probably took me over two months to feel like I was back to not feeling burned out and it took a while to realize that’s exactly what I was feeling, was burned out.”

Smythe said the pandemic is affording people the chance to start the businesses “they always wanted,” whether it’s by themselves or with family.

“The side hustle has now become the main hustle,” said Smythe.

READ ALSO: Latest COVID-19 restrictions challenging, says chamber CEO

Like us on Facebook and follow Karl on Twitter and Instagram


We are experiencing technical difficulties with our commenting platform and hope to be up and running again soon. In the meantime, you can still send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter, or submit a letter to the editor.