Welcome to Startup Story, a six-part series in which we will follow a new business through its startup and the trials and tribulations of a new venture over the course of a year. This is a collaborative venture between Venture Kamloops’ VK Accelerate Program and Kamloops This Week. The first two stories were published in December 2019 and February of this year. The featured business has purchased an advertising package in Kamloops This Week as part of its participation.
Franca Muraca had started her business just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
While other sectors have seen closures or large reductions in business due to physical-distancing rules, Muraca Notary Public was experiencing the opposite and saw business pick up.
“It’s very unusual given what the circumstances have been,” Muraca said.
Muraca started her business late last year, but by the first quarter of 2020, her office was the only one open when two other notaries in town closed for about a month after the pandemic was declared.
She even hired a second conveyancer months ahead of when she thought she would need one.
“It went from being the newest kid on the block to the only kid on the block,” Muraca said.
Due to the pandemic, people seem more concerned with getting important documents in order, Muraca said, adding she didn’t want to have to turn anyone away despite being so busy.
But with unpredictable opportunity also came new challenges.
Muraca said she had requests from seniors to do house calls, which could not be done due to COVID-19, but the most difficult part of adapting to the new normal was navigating bank closures, shorter operating hours at branches and reduced staff levels.
“For me to deposit trust monies or any banking I have to do when deals close, now all of a sudden I was standing in line at the bank,” Muraca said.
She said she was often left scrambling to find places to deposit in person around town.
“All of that was part of the challenge of remaining open because people are still coming to you, going. ‘I need to get this done.’ It was a ton of managing expectations,” Muraca said.
According to BC Notaries Association, notaries across the province are fielding more inquiries from people wanting to ensure they and their families have the necessary legal documents in place in the event they become too ill to make their own decisions, in response to the pandemic.
Muraca said she her office has fielded numerous calls from people asking about estate planning, wills and powers of attorney, noting that mortgage refinancing has become common work during the pandemic as interest rates dropped and people want to lock in a better five-year rate.
If someone had told her when she started six months ago that she would be the only notary operating in Kamloops for part of 2020, Muraca said she never would have believed it.
In staying open during the pandemic, physical distancing and added hygiene measures had to be implemented. Muraca and her assistant work in the office, while the two other employees work remotely.
“Most people that I’ve seen have been incredibly grateful that I remained open and also pretty respectful.” she said. “When we asked if they could wash their hands or sanitize, they’ve been great [about it].”
Muraca said she feels the business will weather the COVID-19 storm.
“You control the parts of it you can control and the other parts you just have to manage as best you can,” she said.