Digital Main Street one-to-one support gives T-Elle owner confidence
In the age of fast fashion and e-commerce Lien Vu’s T-Elle Boutique is a rarity. For 35 years, Vu’s quietly filled the racks of her women’s clothing shop in downtown Peterborough with season after season of designer fashion for women, a curated collection of high-end clothing that wouldn’t be out of place in her own closet.
“I love colour,” says Vu. And what she loves, is what she sells. It’s fitting given that Vu is the business. “I run the store all by myself… I do everything,” says the Peterborough entrepreneur. As a tastemaker, it’s helped T-Elle become a local favourite. But with a growing number of shoppers looking to e-commerce to find unique, designer clothing, Vu has started to look at ways to grow her digital presence while preserving the local feel that’s served the business over the last three and a half decades.
The big push came when the Downtown Peterborough BIA rolled out the Digital Main Street initiative. The program combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities. It’s something Vu admits has fallen to the wayside.
“Working by myself in the store, I have so much to do like displays and merchandising and helping customers,” says the T-Elle owner. It doesn’t leave her much time to work on her website and social media. There’s also the confidence element. With technology changing so quickly and so many tools available, Vu says it’s hard to know where to focus her efforts.
Really, the confidence aspect is the root of Vu’s challenges. She began working alongside the Digital Services Squad lead who helped her decipher the basic elements of social media and her website. “She showed me how to do it,” says Vu. “It just feels more confident when somebody is with you, if you make a mistake, they correct you right away.”
The clothing store owner admits that the program wrapped up a little too quickly for her, putting her in a tough spot for building a sustainable approach. “Now I feel a bit lost,” she says. But Vu continues to post new clothing on her social media channel to help pique interest in the latest fashion coming through the shop’s doors.
She also says she’s updating the T-Elle website. It’s a lot to take on, but Vu says she sees the value in making these digital elements work together. “You have to practice,” she says. “When you don't practice, you forgot how to do it.”
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.