How a Small Business Owner Became a Small Business Ally
Though the programs and roles throughout Lise's journey have changed, Lise's mission remains the same: To empower small business owners. "The most rewarding part of the job for me is seeing business owners go from defeated to excited as they gain the confidence to use and learn new technologies", says Lise.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lise Danyluk found herself on maternity leave with her second son, and like most of us in the year 2020, she was left with few options to leave her home due to the lockdown. Many businesses needed to close their shops due to safety precautions and had to look for other ways to sell their products. Lise specifically recalls hearing about Shopify, which piqued her interest in learning more about what they do. She began to see ads for the company, one of which she remembers along the lines of “anyone can start an online store,” and so she thought, “can I?”. As she delved deeper into its capabilities, the idea struck her – why not create an online farmer's market to support struggling local businesses? And so, “Market 826”, named after the original area code of Bonnyville, was born.
Lise's journey gained momentum as she leveraged social media to connect with businesses. As part of her service, she would support owners by taking product photos and helping promote their businesses online – introducing a new opportunity to bring in revenue.
While running Market 826, Lise encountered a common struggle among small business owners – a lack of specific support programs. “The existing program options for small businesses were vague, and I wanted specific help and a live person to talk to for help”, shares Lise. She specifically noted the desire to have “human verification” when it came to validating the work that she was doing, in what she cites as a “confidence boost before pressing launch.”
Four months into running Market 826, Lise's journey took an unexpected turn when Community Futures introduced the Alberta i-Market program, which had a similar model to her business. Recognizing the potential synergy, Lise joined Community Futures as a Marketing Manager for the program and merged her existing clients with the new Alberta i-Market. This new program brought in grants with a flat monthly fee structure and allowed Lise to manage the growing initiative supporting business owners in her community.
After a year of running the Alberta i-Market, the initiative was coming to an end and a new program was on the horizon- The Digital Economy Program (DEP). The DEP aims at helping small businesses adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. The local Digital Service Squad (DSS), a key part of the DEP, provides one-on-one support for business owners. This element of the program really resonated with Lise because it has that “human verification” she sought as a business owner. So, Lise transitioned into an Administrator role with the DEP and through her experience with Market 826 and the Alberta i-Market, she was able to transfer her skills to ensure the successful launch of the program in her region.
Lise has now supported the DEP for nearly two years, where she has helped countless small businesses in their journey to get online. For some businesses in the St. Paul region this digital transformation journey means launching a brand-new website, for others it means helping establish their digital media presence and building a social media strategy.
“Through the Digital Economy Program and the Digital Service Squads, we offer entrepreneurs one-on-one guidance with their digital marketing, helping to ease the fear and paralysis that can come with adopting new technologies”, shares Lise.
Though the programs and roles throughout Lise's journey have changed, Lise's mission remains the same: To empower small business owners.
“The most rewarding part of the job for me is seeing business owners go from defeated to excited as they gain the confidence to use and learn new technologies”, says Lise.
Her approach to coaching business owners comes from a genuine place of shared experience where she too had shared similar frustrations with her digital journey. Lise shares her message to businesses she works with;
“You can do it. Frustration is a sign that you are learning, and it is all part of the process… Just tackle one thing at a time”.
As Lise looks forward to seeing more businesses take the next step in their digital journey, her story stands as a testament to the possibilities that arise when determination meets adaptability. From a local business owner navigating the uncertainties of a pandemic to a digital innovator facilitating change, Lise's journey embodies the resilience and hope that can emerge from challenging times.
To learn more about the Digital Economy Program and how our Digital Service Squads can help your business, visit here. If you are local to the St. Paul – Smoky Lake region in Alberta, you can connect with Community Futures here.
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, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
Digital Main Street and Business Link have partnered to deliver the Digital Economy Program in Alberta. Through Digital Service Squads, the Digital Economy Program aims to help small businesses adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. The Digital Economy Program is funded by the Government of Alberta and Prairies Economic Development Canada.