Burlington’s Uplift Custom Bras refines designs with digital approach
For the majority of the past 15 years, Linda Crawford’s Burlington-based Uplift Custom Bras has mostly serviced local clientele. But this past summer, after redoing her website, a flood of inquiries from the U.S. and even the U.K. and Australia started to roll in.
“I don't know whether Google really liked (the new site) or if the business that did it did really good SEO, but it’s been a spike… it was almost immediate,” says Crawford. Now the custom bra maker has clients in Mississippi, California and New Jersey. “Right now I have an equal amount of Canadian and American customers.”
And while she isn’t quite ready to start sending bras overseas, she has toyed with the idea of hiring a new sewer to help with the workload. Over the past few months, Uplift has become a completely different business than the one she started 15 years ago out of her house. Crawford says she’s gone through a digital transformation, one she wasn’t certain would work initially.
“It's a whole different process now,” says Crawford of her technique for fitting. After 15 years, she’d developed a unique skillset for creating bras fully-customized to the client wearing them. Going digital during the pandemic meant redesigning that process which also meant Crawford would have to embrace new technologies.
She worked one-to-one with Digital Main Street service squad in Burlington. The program, which combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities, helped Crawford design a plan for the digital future.
“Before March I had never even heard of Zoom,” she says. Mid-summer, she started using the video chat platform for consultations with clients. She’d screenshare a graphic (made with the help of Digital Main Street) with the measurements needed and they’d go through them together virtually. “Next, I send them out a tester, (something) to see what I need to adjust to make the final product,” she says. “And then, once that’s done, hopefully I have everything I need and I send them a bra.”
She’s developed a rhythm to it and it finds herself making less adjustments. She’s also started using social media strategically and has launched a newsletter. “Every time I send a newsletter out, I get more business… it actually works.”
Crawford says she’s looking forward to being able to do fittings in person again but she also doesn’t plan on ditching digital when in-person becomes more normalized. “I think digital has just really opened up a huge new market for me.”
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.