When the COVID-19 pandemic reached British Columbia, most businesses turned to the provincial and federal governments for financial relief. Mission-based Lanka Jewels instead turned to its community — to ask how they could give back to those more in need.
“I have been in this business for 40 years and we have faced challenges of this nature in different forms, from robberies to economic downfalls,” says Lanka Jewels founder Ken Selvaraja. “But COVID-19 has become one of the most critical challenges that both small and big businesses have faced…it has opened our eyes to the fact that communities have to be self-sufficient in some manner. It has brought us a lot closer in lots of ways.”
Rallying together as a community is proving to be key in surviving this unprecedented crisis. In this spirit, Postmedia is providing an opportunity for local businesses and consumers to support one another in a special online event, Support and Buy Local Auction. Bidding opens at noon tomorrow, May 20, and closes May 26. The initiative aims to inject optimism back into the economy at a time when cash flow is limited.
Lanka Jewels is one of more than two dozen companies participating in the online auction, and the idea of giving back is one that the family-owned business takes to heart. Selvaraja is known within Mission and beyond for his philosophy of generosity and his many contributions to the Chamber of Commerce, Mission Youth House, local church groups and more.
Part of that drive stems from his keen understanding that community is at the heart of the economy. In conversation, Selvaraja easily lists off statistics like that 97.9 per cent of all Canadian employers are small businesses, and that those same small businesses employ more than 70 per cent of the private work force. Not to mention, while there are around 15 urban centres in the province, there are more than 80 rural communities across B.C.
“Small businesses are the actual backbone of the country,” he says. “They are a necessary part of the community. Take the human body: you have arteries and veins. One is moving fresh blood, the other pumping old blood. But there are also capillaries, which play a very important part in diffusing waste and providing nourishment. Small businesses are like the capillaries…we need them.”
The analogy comes naturally to Selvaraja, who worked as a nurse at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam before shifting his career to gemstones. Since the pandemic, Lanka Jewels has been working with the Rotary Club and Fraser Health to ensure local healthcare providers are receiving sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). This is on top of working with other community leaders to deliver groceries and parcels of necessities to seniors. Selvaraja’s family has also been phoning local elders for regular check-ins and to ask if there is anything else they need.
And, of course, the business is still there to support all your jewelry and precious stone needs. The expansive showroom at Lanka Jewels is operating in strict adherence with provincial safety protocols, with limited hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday) and reduced patron capacity. Private consultations can also be scheduled in advance. A visit may bring you face to face with Selvaraja himself, or with one of his welcoming family members. Both his son and daughter are learning to manage the store.
For the Support and Buy Local Auction, bidders will have a chance to save big on a selection of custom designs. Highlights include a stunning gold bangle that features a show-stopping 14-carat opal accented with diamonds, a beautiful 11-carat blue topaz ring and much more. To view all auction items from Lanka Jewels, click here.
Support and Buy Local Auction opens at noon on May 20 and closes May 26. Winners will be announced by June 1. Visit VancouverSun.com/supportlocal.