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Your McMurray Magazine Local Business Spotlight - The Rise of Home-Based Business in the Region

Christina Mackay
BY Christina Mackay
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At the beginning of the pandemic, people transitioned to working from home. Children were now experiencing school from their kitchen tables. There were shortages of products from chain stores and online shopping.

In the background of the significant changes, hundreds of local entrepreneurs determined it was the perfect time to establish their roots and grow. From last March until January 2021, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has approved 185 home occupation licenses and 15 home-based business licenses.

Some of the most profitable businesses have found new headquarters in the Fort McMurray Urban Market; others discovered inventive ways to work with potential competitors in the sector to withstand the pandemic’s economic impacts.

A few months leading up to the first lockdown, Fort McMurray resident Tammy McGlennon launched her Blow Up Your Birthday business during the Christmas season in December 2019. The decorating business helps its clients celebrate many occasions by placing signs across the lawns of their family and friends.

“I wanted to do something that permitted me to be creative while bringing joy to people’s lives. It also allowed me to set my own schedule,” said McGlennon. “Our lawn displays gave people a way to show their loved ones they are still celebrating this special occasion, and everyone was able to join in on the fun.”

Pre-pandemic, McGlennon describes her business as mediocre compared to what it had become through the lockdown. In March and April 2020, she had such an influx in business she didn’t have enough displays for the client demand.


There were also significant delays with shipping and products being out of stock. Any clients McGlennon wasn’t able to accommodate during that time, she referred to other local businesses. However, she was able to turn her side gig into a fully-running, profiting business. She also credits her success to the support from the community.

“I, one-hundred percent, believe that this community encourages and helps small businesses grow. The support we have received has been overwhelming, and we are always eager to pay it forward when we can,” she said.

“All it took was a few small shout-outs from Balloons by Melanie Bruneau and Birthday Party on Wheels, and suddenly my bookings tripled. Thanks to Blow Up Your Birthday, I was able to leave my full-time job. But I definitely work harder and longer now than I ever did.”

YMM Parent contributor Ashley Gilbert of Adventures of a Stepmom kick-started her garden kit business through the pandemic. It was inspired after she altered her DIY workshops into take-home kits.

Gilbert has since taken it to a new level by partnering with other home-based businesses in the region. By doing so, she’s been able to not only maximize her market but dozens of others and proved better outcomes from working together.

“I think it’s important to help other local business owners. I add their business cards into my garden kit packages, so my clients can find new stores and products to try. And for this year, I wanted to incorporate a giveaway each month that included items from other local businesses.”

Gilbert has partnered with over 55 local businesses to date and included a Shop Local initiative with one to two winners selected each month. She’s also teamed up with some to add their products to her DIY kits to create a family experience. Some items include charcuterie plates and dessert boxes.

“Families have been messaging me to say what a great time they had together and how much they enjoyed having a treat while they crafted,” she said. “Overall, I love teaming up and being able to promote myself and another person’s business all in one shot.”


Blow Up Your Birthday owner Tammy McGlennon launched her lawn decorating business a few short months pre-COVID and has turned it into a full-time operation. Photos supplied
Ashley Gilbert of Adventures of a Stepmom. Photo supplied