Vive Lavender Farm uses digital presence to offer sneak peek of hidden gem
In 2009, while grappling with her husband’s cancer diagnosis, Sally Morgan went out and bought 50 lavender plant plugs. “I needed to do something,” says Morgan.
Maybe not a distraction but something to put her energy into, something that felt like a renewal of sorts. She planted them and carefully tended the lavender. “They bloomed like nothing had ever bloomed before… and what I found was not only did the lavender smell good, it made me feel good,” says Morgan. “It made me forget about the troubles that were going on and gave me peace and calm.”
She lost her husband three years later, then her mother, then her father. “My life was filled with a lot of death and a lot of closure,” says Morgan. Growing up in the UK, she’d always had an affinity for France and its beautiful language. As a tribute, she named her homestead Vive Lavender Farm. “I wanted something that signified growth and living vivaciously.”
Morgan had spent her career in family law and mediation. She would host clients at a log cabin on the property near Sunderland in Durham and they often found it calming. As she looked to retirement over the last few years, Vive Lavender Farm grew into something bigger – an event space, a place for afternoon teas and lunch, a shop with handmade lavender products and hard-to-get items from her beloved France.
It became a place of peace and calm but also life, growth and renewal. “When people get here, they get it,” says Morgan.
But the reality is: that getting people to a small, off-the-beaten trail farm in Sunderland isn’t always easy. “The majority of people who've come to me have been through word of mouth or Facebook or Instagram… but (I was) truly at a loss on how to reach people.”
Then she came across Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. Morgan saw the digital training and $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant as an opportunity to grow the business’s digital footprint.
Morgan says the initial training videos were phenomenal. “I wrote notes about everything. ”Those notes would serve as a foundation for Morgan’s digital marketing plan.
Morgan introduced an online booking system last year which has helped automate some aspects of the business. But the real focus of Digital Main Street was fine-tuning her approach to digital marketing.
“(The Digital Service Squad member) helped with a lot of Canva posts and helped me formulate the calendar part to get the digital component out,” says Morgan. “She kept me centred.” Morgan also began working on a newsletter to continue to build the story around her business.
It’s still challenging to get the word out, says Morgan. But with the funding from the grant, she was able to invest in elements of the business to free up time including getting the booking system set up and paying for her QuickBooks and Canva subscriptions. She’s also invested in some high-quality photography in hopes the visuals will draw in new visitors.
In the end, the digital experience is a way to make the hidden gem a little less off the beaten path. But getting people to Vive Lavender Farm is always the goal. “This is an experience place,” she says.
To learn more about Digital Main Street's programs and how we can help your business visit 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.
Continued investment from the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT) has allowed the ongoing expansion the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital across Ontario.