400 Small Businesses Form New Association

downtown Reykjavík

Around 400 small and medium-sized businesses have registered in a new association that was formed yesterday, RÚV reports. The association, called Atvinnufjelag, will take part in contract negotiations separately from the Confederation of Iceland Enterprise (SA) in order to give a voice to smaller businessses.

“Over 99% of associations in Iceland are small and medium-size businesses and independent workers,” stated Arna Þorsteinsdóttir, one of the founders of the new association and co-owner of ad agency Sahara. The new association’s preparatory board says smaller businesses need a bigger seat at the table. “What’s not working with SA is the voting system. The bigger a business is, the more votes you have, the more weight you have. So it’s more likely that bigger businesses call the shots.”

The premise of the new association is that each company will have one vote, regardless of its size, setting up a majority rule. Arna says smaller companies have felt they do not have enough of a voice within SA. “Especially during COVID, certain response measures were requested for small and medium-size businesses that did not get support.”

The association’s founding statement asserts that Iceland’s taxation system is unequal and should take into account the size and scope of businesses’ operations. The association states it will negotiate contracts on behalf of its members and do so independently from SA. Arna hopes, however, “that there will be an open discussion and talks. We recognise that we are sort of gatecrashers here but we just want to get to the table.”

Westfjords Nursing Home Heavily Affected by COVID-19

Bolungarvík

Two more deaths by COVID-19 were reported yesterday in Iceland, bringing the country’s total of deaths from the disease to six. A man in his sixties died at Iceland’s National University Hospital in Reykjavík, becoming the fifth in Iceland to lost his battle with the disease. The country’s sixth COVID-19 victim died in at the nursing home Berg in Bolungarvík in the Westfjords yesterday.

The man who died yesterday in Reykjavík was named Sigurður H. Sverrisson and was born in 1953, RÚV reports. His wife had died recently, on March 8. A Facebook post by Sigurður’s brother said the two would be “sorely missed.”

Nursing home relying on reserve force staff

The nursing home resident who died in the Westfjords yesterday was named Gunnsteinn Svavar Sigurðsson and was born in 1938. Two other residents at the nursing home have COVID-19 and three others are in isolation, with test results pending. Five residents are in quarantine though asymptomatic.

A notice from the Westfjords Health Institution states that the majority of the nursing home’s staff is in isolation, and five have tested positive for coronavirus. Other permanent staff, with the exception of three individuals, are in quarantine, and the nursing home residents are therefore being attended to exclusively by staff from the national reserve force or other departments of the health centre. More staff from the reserve force are expected to arrive by helicopter today, weather permitting.

Mayor concerned about small businesses

Bolungarvík (population 931) has banned gatherings of over five people, stricter than the national gathering ban of groups over 20. Jón Páll Hreinsson, the town’s mayor, says there is a lot of solidarity in the community, but expressed concern for small businesses that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. “Those who are making sacrifices in this [situation] are the small service providers,” he told RÚV. “The beauty parlours and the entire restaurant industry which is of course very vulnerable in these small places […] the income disappears.”

The municipality’s response package includes measures to support small businesses. Jón Páll stated that he was in contact with his colleagues across the country who are facing the same challenges. “They are all very concerned about this and most municipalities plan to intervene.”

A Delicate Craft

Ragna Sara Jónsdóttir - Fólk - íslensk framleiðsla

Iceland’s rich creative culture demonstrates that no place is too small or remote to start up a business, manage a company, or to make a difference from. But given the country’s high wages, production, and shipping costs, outsourcing abroad is frequently the only way to ensure a company’s profitable growth.

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New Program Helps Immigrants Start Food Trucks in Reykjavík

dumplings foreign food

Over 100 immigrants from more than 20 countries are taking part in a program that will help them develop, set up, and operate a food truck specialising in food from their home countries. Vísir reports that the would-be food truckers are attending an eight-week course co-sponsored by Innovation Centre Iceland, The City of Reykjavík, and Reykjavík Street Food.

“These are all people who want to bring their food culture to Iceland,” said Fjalar Sigurðarson, marketing director of Innovation Center Iceland. Immigrants don’t always know how to get ideas like this off the ground in Iceland, he continued – “they don’t know where they should look and sometimes don’t know the language. So they need some help getting started.”

“We’re trying to help them as much as we can,” continued Fjalar, although he was adamant that “no one is giving them anything. They have to do this for themselves and have the ideas…what kind of food truck and what kind of food [they] want to introduce to Icelanders and tourists.”

The 100 participants make up 24 different teams. During the first class on Monday, participants worked on designing their menus. A Thai family who wants to open a food truck called Baitong, which means ‘Banana Leaf,’ was among the participants, as were a Pakistani couple, and a woman from Senegal.

The course was advertised before Christmas and a preliminary class was given to introduce the initiative. A hundred and fifty people attended the introductory meeting.

Participants who succeed in turning their food truck dreams into reality will be given the opportunity to take part in street food events in Reykjavík, such as on Culture Night and June 17, Icelandic Independence Day.

“We’re hoping that this spring, Icelanders and tourists will get to try their food, which comes from every corner of the globe,” said Fjalar.