Digital Main Street helps Atlas Yoga Studio get to the next level
Atlas Yoga Studio has been a twenty-year balancing act for Denise Davis-Gains. She’s built her life this way – trying to find some sense of symmetry through deliberation. Case in point: the choice to create Atlas Yoga Studio in the Cambridge community of Galt rather than an area with a more established yoga scene was meant to keep her close to her family and balance personal life with her career.
“I knew I’d have to build that community, to educate people (and) find ways to be creative to get people across the doorstep,” says Davis-Gains. Building in somewhere like Oakville meant she would’ve been away from her children. “Which wasn't my goal,” she says. “I call it my mom business – I had my mom business that I ran totally around the schedule of my children and I taught (part-time) at Laurier and Conestoga.”
But more recently, with her youngest now in university, Davis-Gains has found herself with space to grow Atlas Yoga Studio, a first for the entrepreneur. “I've been sitting with myself and other people that I admire in business and having conversations about how I take my business from a mom business to a big girl business.”
Call it kismet, Digital Main Street materialized in the midst of these discussions. The Digital Main Street program combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario to help main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities.
“Just as I was sitting down, making business plans and talking to experts, trying to look at the budget going, okay, how long is it going to take us to do this? And the money and just having an expert help me make it all work…” says Davis-Gains. “It was too amazing for timing because it's a small grant, but it was about what we needed to make this next step.”
Davis-Gains admits her initial thought with the training component of the Digital Transformation Grant was “what could I possibly learn?” She has a degree in communication and is an avid podcast listener. But even the information in the training videos she already knew acted as a reminder of the importance surrounding digital marketing. “As I was learning what they were saying about Google ads, I was like, you know what, 10 years ago I spent money on Google ads and they did nothing,” she says. Curious, she spent $30 on Google ads to see how much it had changed. “I got calls the next day from the ad I placed.”
So she did it for three months. In fact, as she was going through the course, she was implementing whatever she could immediately. She also gained a new perspective on her approach to social media. Up to that point, she’d been treating her personal social media and her business social media as one and the same.
“I've since realized not only do I need to have two separate identities but that I actually should be branding myself while I brand my business so that in five or ten years if I want to sell my business, I'm not selling my personal brand,” she says. “That was like enlightening.”
Davis-Gains has also started to delve into video. Her first experiment was a quick, low-quality video she shot to advertise over social media. “It got like 500 times more traffic than anything that I've put up on my social media ever,” she says. She’s since started to work with a videographer and fellow yogi to create higher quality, engaging content. It’s about growth, both personal and professional.
Davis-Gains says over the course of her 20 years, she’s had a lot of people tell her she needed to be marketing herself, she needed to be at yoga shows and getting herself out there, but she never felt ready. “I didn't have the time and the energy to invest in it,” she says. But she feels like she’s there now. The next step is parlaying that experience into growth. “That's the stage we're at, and that's what Digital Main Street allowed us to do, it allowed us to get to that next level.”
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, and Yellow Pages.
This case study was completed during a prior expansion of DMS in partnership with the Province of Ontario and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
In June 2020, a $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of 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.