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Former Richmond gym owner sets his sights on helping small businesses

Isaac Payne set off in a new business direction after closing his gym during the pandemic

The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for one Richmond resident.

Isaac Payne made the decision to close his gym of 10 years in June 2020, just a few months into the pandemic.

“COVID hit, and I was faced with the decision of whether or not I wanted to keep my gym open. I only had a couple of years left on my lease and I wasn’t sure if it was worth the fight to try to keep in open and potentially risk bleeding money,” said Payne.

But the decision to shutter his gym on No. 2 Road and Westminster Highway allowed him to focus on launching a new venture – one Payne had been thinking about since 2019 – aimed at helping small local businesses.

“It was a pivot that I wanted to make…but I was kind of hesitant to pull the trigger because I had a lot going on,” he said.  

“So I guess the universe and the moon and stars aligned with COVID happening, so for me it was kind of a blessing…It was a catalyst. It just kind of gave me the push I needed to move in that direction.”

Payne launched his app, Mom and Pop, earlier this month, designed to be a go-to “marketplace” where people can discover and support small and medium-sized businesses in B.C. and across the country.

Once people log onto the app, they’ll see a series of businesses listed – such as clothing, restaurants, gyms and yoga studios, and pet supplies – each with an exclusive promotional offer.

By selecting the business they are interested in, people can access a coupon which they can either show to the vendor at their brick-and-mortar location or get a discount code for an online vendor’s website.

The app is only for accessing the discounts – people can’t make purchases through it, but rather are directed through the app to the business’s website or location to shop, said Payne.

He said he first got the idea for the Mom and Pop app in the fall of 2019, when he was looking for new marketing ideas to promote his gym but realized there wasn’t “a whole lot out there.”

“There were certain platforms that existed that basically kind of leveraged the small business, but didn’t really benefit (them),” said Payne.

“That’s when I started thinking about creating something where a small business owner can give a discount to attract new customers…but at the same time, it allows consumers to discover new businesses with high quality services.”

It can also be difficult for small business owners to get the exposure they want with limited budgets, Payne said, noting businesses aren’t charged to be listed on the app.

It’s also free for consumers to use with a “few limitations,” but people can also buy a premium membership for unlimited access,” he added.

While the app was a move Payne had wanted to make, he said that pivoting to an entirely different career was “nerve-wracking.”

“I thought to myself, I’ve never done anything in this industry before. I’m not a technology or software person. I’ve always been in the fitness industry,” said Payne.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking and challenging, but fortunately I have a very supportive wife who supported my decision to take the plunge and make this happen. We both agreed that the pain of wondering what if and not taking that step would be worse than taking that step and failing.”