Here’s how going viral impacts small businesses


The Lexington Candy Shop in New York City has served burgers, fries and shakes to hungry patrons for decades. Last remodelled in 1948, the diner is the definition of old-fashioned.

But that hasn’t stopped it from getting a wave of new fans.

In August 2022, this old school business met the new world when Nicolas Heller, a TikToker and Instagrammer with 1.2 million followers known as New York Nico, popped in for a traditional Coke float — Coke syrup, soda water and ice cream. Naturally, he took a video. It went viral, garnering 4.8 million likes.

“The next day (after the video was posted), the lines started forming at 8 in the morning,” John Philis, the diner’s third-generation co-owner, recalls with amazement. “And it was like, huh!”

When a smaller restaurant unexpectedly goes viral on TikTok or other social media, the sudden demand can be overwhelming. Owners have to adapt on the fly, revamping operations to quickly serve a crush of people. But savvy business owners who are able to adapt can parlay newfound fame into a lasting boost for their business.

Ali Elreda opened Fatima’s Grill in Downey, California, in 2016, drawing in customers with an eclectic range of tacos, wraps and burgers.

He sprinkled Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in some of them, inspired by his daughter’s love of hot chips. By 2020, Elreda had worked hard to develop his restaurant’s social media presence, shooting videos with music. But after a TikToker dubbed @misohungry posted a video of Elreda’s Flaming Hot Cheeto Fusion burger that August, things suddenly “just went crazy.”

Dominique Ansel, second from right, greets people who have been waiting in line for the opening of his namesake bakery in New York, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. In 2013, before most people knew the term “going viral,” the French pastry chef created the Cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut, at his newly opened New York bakery. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Lines to get into the restaurant ballooned to two to three hours — for months. At first, the store wasn’t ready for the influx.

“We just couldn’t adjust,” he said. “We would stay late hours to prep for the next day and then the lines would continue and continue and continue and continue.”

Opening two nearby restaurants helped relieve the pressure. Elreda now has 10 locations, including newly opened restaurants in Detroit and Brooklyn

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‘It’s beautiful’: St. John’s Black-owned market helps small businesses share culture, creativity

Margaret Asuquo, who started a small jewelry and craft business called Marge’s Creations and Designs last year, says it’s amazing to have the opportunity to sell her work alongside other creators at the Black-owned vendor market in St. John’s. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Margaret Asuquo says she’s been creative her entire life, always picking up new hobbies that allow her to use her hands to create something beautiful.

Being able to sell her original work — including beaded bags, earrings and necklaces — alongside other Black artists and creators at a vendor market is nothing short of “amazing,” she said.

“It is like the biggest pat on the back,” said Asuquo, who started a small jewlery and craft business called Marge’s Creations and Designs last year.

“To kind of see it come to life and then hear people like kind of say, ‘It’s beautiful’ and everything is like, oh my God, my heart is full. So it’s amazing.”

The Black-owned vendor market celebrated its third anniversary Saturday on George Street in St. John’s, an event that included live music and performances, as well as Black vendors selling clothing, food and jewlery.

A woman wearing a bright orange, blue and red sun dress smiles while standing beside a table covered in brightly coloured textiles and clothing.
Nicole Obiodiaka is the organizer and founder of Centra, an organization that works to curate cultural experiences in the city, including the Black-owned vendor market, which celebrated its third anniversary on George Street Saturday. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Nicole Obiodiaka is the organizer and founder of Centra, an organization that works to curate cultural experiences in the city, including the vendor market.

This year’s market was the biggest yet and the first on George Street. Last year it was held at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. 

Obiodiaka hopes the market will continue to grow and expand.

Not only is the market a “beautiful” way for small businesses to showcase their talents and creativity, Obiodiaka said, but it’s also a way for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to experience other cultures. 

“It can be through shopping, through dialogue, through the music, like, it’s a whole multisensory experience to immerse yourself in our culture,” she said. “So it’s beautiful.”

Margaret Ajayi, the owner of St. John’s baking and catering compan Meggs Cakes & Events, moved to the province around four years ago from Nigeria. She can’t remember how many cakes she’s baked or events she’s catered since she arrived.

A woman wearing a black shirt stands in between two young girls.
Margaret Ajayi is the owner of Meggs Cakes & Events, a baking and catering company in St. John’s.
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Cash incentives offered to Nova Scotia businesses that promote the ‘Gaelic brand’ – Halifax

The next time you order a meal in Nova Scotia, you could get a discount on your bill — if you know some Gaelic.

Under a pilot program, the Nova Scotia government is offering up to $1,000 to small- and mid-sized businesses that promote the Gaelic language and culture, which are deeply ingrained in the province’s history.

Among other things, the Gaelic Business Initiative encourages businesses to hire Gaelic-speaking employees and incorporate the ancient language into their marketing, advertising, events and daily routines.

“Gaels worldwide represent a distinct and significant economic presence,” says the non-profit Scotland-Nova Scotia Business Association, which is administering the program. “Nova Scotia … has a unique opportunity to promote its ‘Gaelic brand.’”

One suggestion for applicants is to provide customers with bilingual menus and offer markdowns for those who attempt to place their order in Gaelic.

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“Businesses can benefit by offering their customers a unique experience,” said program spokesman Nick Nickerson, who helped start the program in January. “That’s going to attract customers and create loyalty.”

The provincial government’s Gaelic Affairs division says that among the one million people who call Nova Scotia home, about 230,000 are descendants of Gaelic settlers who started arriving from the Highlands and islands of Scotland in the 1700s. Most of them settled in the eastern mainland of the province and in Cape Breton.

Several communities in the area have Scottish names, including Arisaig, Eigg Mountain, Bornish and Keppoch. In the early 1900s, as many as 50,000 Nova Scotians spoke Gaelic as their first language.

“About a third of Nova Scotians have Gaelic heritage,” said Nickerson, who added that similar programs have been launched to preserve the Gaelic language in Scotland and Ireland. “And Nova Scotia is the only place outside of Scotland where Gaelic is still spoken on a daily basis.”

Gaelic-related businesses and events contribute $23 million annually to Nova Scotia’s economy, the provincial government says.

In Cape Breton, the Celtic Colours International Festival has become a popular tradition, particularly when it comes to traditional music. English-Gaelic road signs are common in the eastern districts, and Gaelic studies are offered in 15 public schools. As well, the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, N.S., known as Colaisde

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Kingston area students launching businesses thanks to Summer Company

Ten area students are launching their own businesses through the Summer Company Program. Top row (L to R): Sam King, Tyler Kraus, Roman Mironov, Owen McDowell, and Mason Rice. Bottom row: Ryleigh Hillier, Josh Bowry, Eric Colonna, Jasmine Woboditsch, and Nicolas Inscho. Photos via Kingston EcDev website.

Ten students from the Kingston area have made their way into the Summer Company Program, which will provide their businesses with a $3,000 grant funded by the Ontario government. 

Since its inception, the Summer Company program has been instrumental in helping young individuals aged 15 to 29 start and run their own businesses, providing them with valuable business training and financial support, according to a release from Kingston Economic Development (EcDev), who facilitate the program. Out of the $3,000 grant amount, up to $1,500 is designated for the startup cost, and the remaining funds will be awarded upon successful completion of the program. 

“Supporting students on their entrepreneurial journey is an incredible experience, witnessing their passion transform into businesses, as they continue to explore if entrepreneurship is a potential future career option. With a team of highly successful coaches guiding them this year, we are empowering these young minds to build their dreams. From mastering the art of lure-making to bridging gaps in sports training, from making fashion inclusive to capturing moments through a lens, they are filling gaps in the Kingston business market,” stated Norman Musengimana, Business Development Manager for Start-Ups & Entrepreneurship at Kingston Economic Development.

According to the release, this year’s cohort of Summer Company participants have already begun demonstrating their entrepreneurial spirit and dedication throughout the week-long business bootcamp hosted by Business Coach, Claire Bouvier. The student entrepreneurs have each been matched with a business mentor to help guide them as they start and grow their businesses over the course of the summer. The students are currently in the process of refining their business’ respective products or services and serving their first customers, Kingston EcDev noted.

“During the business bootcamp, I had the privilege to connect with young entrepreneurs and learn about their unique businesses,” said Mason Rice, Founder of Rice Photography and 2023 Summer Company participant. “Interacting with them was valuable, as it broadened my perspective and allowed room for future collaboration. Additionally, I gained practical sales skills and marketing strategies that I plan on implementing soon. I am excited to apply what I’ve learned and take my

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Patio delays are a visible marker of red-tape challenges for businesses

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Small businesses say Toronto’s CafeTO program has too much red tape and that’s led to delays and lost revenue.Getty Images

Toronto has already enjoyed two months of patio season, but many business owners have decried lost revenue and confusing bureaucracy as the city’s CafeTO program struggles to keep up with demand.

“The patios are still starting to go up in Toronto. It’s been extremely slow this year,” says Jennifer Orenstein, a director for the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA).

Ms. Orenstein, who also serves as the Leslieville BIA treasurer, says restaurants in her neighbourhood, such as Radical Road Brewing Co., have had their patio applications approved by CafeTO, only to be rejected by the traffic department. “It’s hard when you’ve got businesses relying on this whole entire project to make money,” she says, citing delays as costly. “There are too many parts of the municipal government that are involved in this one little program.”

A 2022 TABIA report says CafeTO delivered $203-million in economic benefits to Toronto last year. But businesses spent an average of $18,160 to set up their patio spaces and 43 per cent said more assistance from city staff was needed for the program to run smoothly.

This burden of red tape is felt across the country at every level of government. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) says small and medium-sized businesses collectively paid $38.8-billion in regulatory expenses in 2020, from taxes and licensing to training and safety measures. Of that amount, the CFIB report says businesses believe more than $10-billion could be cut without sacrificing the public interest. Businesses with fewer than five employees cited the highest cost per employee, at nearly $2,000 each.

In Vancouver, Brent Constantine has been trying to move the Little Mountain Gallery, a not-for-profit comedy theatre, to the Gastown neighbourhood for nearly two years after the building it previously occupied was being redeveloped.

“It’s a great location” he says. But “it’s been empty, more or less, while we wait for our development permit, our building permits, and then an occupancy permit. Then we had to get a liquor license for small spaces,” he explains.

As an urban planning major, he can appreciate the need to ensure safety – such as keeping up with fire regulations. But there are demands he is unable to meet. “An example is something like: what

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