Sonia Wesche, Kari Johnston, Christy Huey, Mark Andrachuk, Felix Arndt & Jiamin Jiang
The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to entrepreneurs and businesses during its early phases, forcing them to rapidly adapt their means of product and service delivery. This involved coping with the closures of brick-and-mortar stores, constantly changing public health and safety measures, decision-making to support and retain employees, and managing customer and employee expectations in response to these changes. In the unique context of the Yukon Territory in the Western Canadian Arctic, entrepreneurs were faced with additional challenges due to the territory's small size and population, relative isolation, and strict territorial border controls. This makes the Yukon a compelling case study to examine how entrepreneurs adapted to the pandemic both in the short and longer term.
This article focuses on Kari Johnston, a local entrepreneur and business leader who also served as a Municipal Councilor during the early stages of the pandemic. Johnston initiated a podcast that highlighted the experiences of business owners and leaders as they grappled with the new and shifting pandemic context. The podcast also highlighted the importance of community-oriented supports like Yukon University’s PIVOT Program (April-September 2020), the Tourism Industry Association forum and Yukon Government programs, all of which helped Yukon businesses reboot and grow during the pandemic. The podcast chronicled how, together, these initiatives created a collaborative knowledge-sharing network that provided support during the critical period of initial pandemic response when entrepreneurs were facing high levels of uncertainty. This exploration provides insights into the resilience of the entrepreneurial sector, and highlights the importance of tailored, community-based supports in responding to pandemic-like crises.