How the Haberdashery is stitching together it’s physical and online businesses
For the first four years in business, Hamilton’s The Haberdashery lived online.
“I would do trade shows and pop-ups but I really only had Facebook, Instagram and Etsy,” says Holly Johnston, founder of the vintage shop-meets-tanning salon and makeup studio. But that changed this past winter when she opened her first physical location on Concession Street in Hamilton.
It was a whole new reality transitioning into the brick and mortar world and amalgamating all her different businesses under one roof. Johnston knew her challenge would be connecting the communities she’d built online with the new physical business she was creating to somehow make it all work together.
She’d already put time into her digital presence, but she recognized that it was lacking. “I was just using the most popular of the apps… I don’t even have a website yet,” she says. “Now I realize that it's important to branch out.”
Then Johnston heard about the Digital Main Street program, which leverages grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities. She knew it could help her tie the pieces of The Haberdashery together and build a more cohesive business both online and offline.
But it’s a lot, she admits, both managing a physical location and keeping tabs on the ever-evolving algorithms that dictate where you end up in search results. “When I first started doing all the selling online and what-not, just using the proper hashtags and knowing what time of day to post was enough to get a lot of traction and now that just does not matter at all,” she says.
Johnston says she’s fortunate given she had just launched her brick and mortar shop a few months prior to starting the Digital Main Street program, meaning she could integrate that digital presence directly into the foundations. The Haberdashery owner says the training videos exposed her to a whole new way of thinking.
The goal now is to execute on the plan she’s laid out for herself through the program and retool her approach with social media and search engine optimization to bring her business to the forefront. She also wants to build out the digital back-end of the business.
“I'm not a computer person,” admits Johnston. “And unfortunately a lot of these apps and (digital tools for businesses), they're not free and they’re not cheap either – so I need somebody to just boil down what is the most important thing for me to do right now as opposed to me just taking a shot in the dark.”
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.
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.