Minto gets granular with second run of Digital Main Street
For Minto, a second run of the Digital Main Street program gave Somer Antonopoulos, business development coordinator for LaunchIt Minto, an opportunity to bring some of the area’s overlooked hamlets and junctions into the digital transformation fold.
“(They) weren’t eligible last time,” says Antonopoulos, pointing to Teviotdale, a small hamlet that’s home to “some significant businesses.”
Minto jointly applied with Hanover for the first run of Digital Main Street, a program that combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities, in Fall 2019.
The updated and expanded version of the program condenses the programming component, giving businesses a streamlined approach to applying for and receiving the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant. It also adds two new elements – shopHERE powered by Google, which helps businesses build online stores for free and DMS Future Proof which assists businesses in identifying future opportunities.
This time around, Antonopoulos says Minto is taking a more granular approach, connecting with businesses across three townships – Mapleton, Wellington North, and Minto – and nine different main streets including Arthur, Mount Forest, Harriston, Palmerston, Clifford, Alma, Drayton, Moorefield and Teviotdale.
“It’s a very large catchment area that we’re covering… (and) the downtowns are all unique,” she says. Part of that focus has been leveraging the $27,000 digital service squad grant to hire Ashley Noble, a Harriston resident and business marketing graduate. Noble worked one-to-one with local businesses across the region.
“I helped 50 businesses apply for the grant,” says Noble. With varying degrees of digital literacy across the different main streets, she made it her mission to help businesses pinpoint how they could allocate the grant money for the greatest impact.
A lot of the businesses were hit hard by the pandemic, so the grant offered them a chance to explore digital options at a critical time. Noble says half of the businesses she worked with put the funds towards a website but there was also a group that’d received the grant the first time and used the funds to build on that by investing in a point-of-sale system or content for their digital assets. “It’s very broad with the grant money,” says Noble. “You can spend it in a lot of different ways.”
Antonopoulos says she found the roll-out much more fluid the second time around – partially because she had a better handle on the nuances of the program and partially because the program was streamlined. But there was also a lot of momentum, not just because of the pandemic but because of the success stories from the first round. “I hope that they do this again and continue it because even if a business isn’t eligible for the $2,500, the ability to have Ashley or the digital service squad be able to connect one-on-one with our businesses is invaluable,” says Antonopoulos. “I feel the next time around there’ll be a lot more uptake.”
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.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev 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 in Southern Ontario.