How Belle River Plans to Get All It’s Businesses On The Map

by Avatar Andrew Seale   |   July 30, 2019   |   Share this :  

It was Janel Gagnier, coordinator of the Belle River On The Lake BIA, that first convinced the board to take up the Digital Main Street initiative. “Right away I knew it was a good thing and I knew it would benefit the businesses in our community,” says Gagnier. She admits she came down hard, telling her board: “We don't want to think about it, we don’t want to talk about it, we want to do it now… they all agreed and we applied.” 

Nestled at the foot of Lake St. Clair, Belle River is a truly main street community. Its lakeside lifestyle means a steady influx of visitors. It also means local businesses need to have some sort of online presence to make them easy for tourists to know where to look.   

The Belle River on the Lake BIA launched its Digital Main Street initiative with a lofty benchmark: get every business on Google. 



Our goal starting out was for every business in Belle River to have control over their Google My Business listing,” 

explains Sienna Ducharme, a member of the BIAs Digital Squad. A month into the program – which leverages grants and support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help small main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities – the Digital Squad has already visited 110 businesses in Belle River and engaged with 20. 

I think a lot of them were overwhelmed, they didn't know what their starting point should be,” says Ducharme. Giving them a nudge in the right direction has been really helpful for a lot of them. 

It was Janel Gagnier, coordinator of the Belle River On The Lake BIA, that first convinced the board to take up the Digital Main Street initiative. Right away I knew it was a good thing and I knew it would benefit the businesses in our community,” says Gagnier. She admits she came down hard, telling her board:

 We don't want to think about it, we dont want to talk about it, we want to do it now… they all agreed and we applied. 

For the Digital Squad, she hired Ducharme, a graduate of the University of Windsors business administration program with a concentration on marketing and Dominique Nickels, a third-year communications and media student at the University of Windsor. The aim was to create a team that could bounce ideas off one another. 

The pair have proven complementary, says Gagnier. In just a few weeks since launching, theyve started to elevate the business communities digital literacy.  


The digital assessment is a big first step not only for the business but we see where they're at,” says Nickels. And from there we can talk about what we think is a good next step for them (and) bounce ideas off of them to see what direction they want to go. 

 Theyve since expanded beyond the workshops surrounding Digital Main Streets online training videos to developing their own seminar on website building for small business owners. Nearly half of the businesses theyve engaged with attended their seminar.  

But its not without challenges for the time-starved entrepreneurs. 

Helping them through these steps, even just getting a business email addresses (has) been a huge step for them,” says Nickels. Once they have that theyre set to claim their Google My Business which allows them to get a better insight into the reviews people are leaving, and perhaps more importantly, respond to those reviews. They can ensure all the information is accurate and up-to-date and includes their own 360 photos of their business. 

There is no question businesses cant afford to not be in control of that digital personality. But the Digital Squad in Belle River has taken it upon themselves to get them there. The digital assessment sparks a great conversation,” says Ducharme. 

It gives them ideas they've never had and what they still want to achieve,” adds Nickels. 



Written by: Andrew Seale 

Questions About Digital Transformation?

Digital Main Street is helping to create connected cities, maintain vibrant neighbourhoods, and empower main streets – providing business owners with the support and guidance they need during their digital transformation journey.

The many small businesses that line global main streets have always been a defining quality of vibrant downtowns and communities. Small business is the economic engine of our any country. Main street small businesses are major contributors to any regional economic power through employment, taxes and exporting.

Ontario: Complete our free online training and apply for a $2500 Digital Transformation Grant


Digital Transformation Headlines

Warning: preg_match(): Compilation failed: invalid range in character class at offset 12 in /srv/users/serverpilot/apps/digitalmainstreet-ca/public/wp-content/plugins/js_composer/include/classes/shortcodes/vc-basic-grid.php on line 184

Helping and celebrating Canadian small businesses

Many small businesses across the country temporarily closed their storefronts this year during the country-wide lockdown. According to the OECD, these closures are likely to hit small and medium-sized businesses the hardest. For many, digital tools have become a lifeline during this time.    To get the week started, we’re highlighting free tools and resources to […]

Facebook Canada Launches Grant Program and New Supports for Small Businesses

Facebook Canada today unveiled several new initiatives to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The announcement includes nearly $3.5 million in grants, virtual training programs, and product features across Facebook’s family of apps to promote local businesses. “We know small businesses are being hit hard right now, and we want to help,” said Garrick Tiplady, […]

Resources for Small Businesses during COVID-19

Small Business Support Resources    COVID19   Government of Canada Government of Ontario John Hopkins University COVID19 Resource Center   The business community globally, in Canada, and Ontario is being impacted by COVID-19. In response, both the Canadian and the Ontario Governments have announced support for the business community during this pandemic. For more information […]

5 Tactics for SMBs Trying to Stay Top of Mind During COVID-19

The time to start being proactive is now. Or yesterday if you ask Karen OBrien, global marketing expert and the original seed investor for our partner, Trufan. She was kind enough to send us 5 key tactics when asked about how small businesses can stay top of mind with everything going on. She started with […]

Small Business Starter Kit Guide

Digital Main Street has compiled a brief “starter kit” for businesses looking for guidance on their Digital Transformation. We worked as a team to put together a short summary of keep topics you should be considering at this time for your business. These include: Websites eCommerce Creating Buyer Persona's Content Creation Video Creation / Marketing […]

A message to our Digital Main Street community re: COVID-19

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most serious global health security threat in decades. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak, and we are deeply grateful to the thousands of healthcare workers who are on the front lines helping their communities. In Canada we are doing our […]

Ready to get started?