Self-employment program graduate Mike Babott of Rhythm Productions uses his videography skills to help Armstrong businesses adapt to COVID-19
It’s a day when children race around the playground with syrup fingers from the pancake breakfast and red lips from the Canada Day cake. When hundreds of people stand on the grass under a July 1st sun to sing Canada Day together following a tribute to veterans at Memorial Park. It’s a day that’s loud, because the entertainers sing and dance and laugh with all their heart under the gazebo, above the squeals of children enjoying a free swim at the pool and all kinds of games on the lawn. This is Canada Day in Armstrong, for as long as most can remember. So, what would this community do in 2020, when COVID asked people to celebrate apart, at home?
Nearly one year has passed since the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce, like so many others over the past year, was forced to adapt. The Chamber set out to bring the spirit of Canada Day to residents another way—online. Mike Babott, owner of video production company Rhythm Productions, was only too keen to help make their idea a reality.
“It’s a big to-do, and everyone was crushed that it was shut down, so we looked for a way to pivot and create an online event.”
Babott filmed personal messages from local officials, performances by dancers and bands, demonstrations by artists and even a homemade ice cream tutorial. Residents also got in on a Canada Day baking contest, a livestreamed car rally through town and a virtual dance party via zoom. Every half hour, the Chamber then released new videos via a special Facebook page so people could enjoy the festivities throughout the day.
“People loved that they could watch those videos when it worked for them, and they didn’t miss anything. We had people from all over, not just Armstrong, celebrate with us.”
By all accounts, the event was a success.
“People still had a day to connect and celebrate,” says Babott. “It turned into an amazing event and the community really responded to it.”
It was just one of several ways Babott has been able to use the power of video to help support his community over the last year.
The Armstrong-Spallumcheen’s ‘Cheese, It’s a Natural’ festival—a highly anticipated event held annually in September that normally draws hundreds of vendors and attendees—also had to make a change in 2020, and Babott was there with his camera gear.
“We said, let’s keep it going, let’s let people experience this festival from the comfort of their home.”
So, Babott went out and brought the dairy stories to the dairy community, filming a cheesy Farmstrong Cidery pizza being made, a cheesecake class with Orchard Blossom Honey, a tour of a dairy farm—and more.
“It turned into such a great event. The videos have had hundreds of thousands of views, and for a small city of 5,000 people and a small chamber to have that kind of presence online is remarkable.”
Once it was safe to reopen, the owners of Farmstrong Cidery wanted to help guests understand ahead of time what steps they’d be asked to follow, and the steps the staff would follow in this new environment. Babott packed his camera and drove up Salmon River Road to the popular cidery (where he is a regular).
The Farmstrong Cidery reopening walk-through video takes guests from the parking lot to being seated and ordering to paying their bill amidst arrows and masks and plexiglass, and it’s had more than 2,000 views.
“It was such a different experience, so they wanted to let people know in advance what to expect. They’ve said the video really helped because when people arrived, they already knew the drill and it saved their staff time in explaining so they could just focus on serving people.”
Babott says visuals go a long way in helping people understand new ways of doing things they’ve always done, and consumers have shown this year that they have an appetite for connecting with their favourite brands however they can. If that’s video, Babott says it’s providing an important connection point and source of support.
Babott opened his business in Armstrong in 2018 after taking the self-employment program (delivered by Community Futures) through WorkBC Vernon. A member of the CF North Okanagan Business Exchange group, he says the organization’s continued support has made all the difference.
“They were always happy to answer questions or take a call to help me navigate opening my business, and without their support, I wouldn’t be here making videos.”
That support has also been important throughout difficult times as Babott sought out opportunities and silver linings. He says he’s grateful he’s had the chance to help his community make an impact through video.
“I love telling people’s stories.”
Are you considering becoming self-employed? Learn more about WorkBC’s Self-Employment program and eligibility requirements. Contact the WorkBC Centre in Vernon at 250-545-2215 ext. 233 or visit workbccentre-vernon.ca for more information.