Voice2Net picks up the connection with digital presence
Nearly two decades ago, Darcy Primrose stumbled on voice over IP (VoIP) at a tradeshow while working as a director of research and development for a company out of Brockville. He brought the idea to his company, insisting it was the future.
“For about two years I pushed them to do it, but they wouldn't do it,” he says. “And I finally said, well, it's the way telecom’s going to go so I'm just going to give it a shot.”
In 2002 he made his leap of faith, and it’s all he’s been doing since. 18 years on, his Old Town Kemptville-based business Voice2Net has grown alongside the technology offering everything from telephone services over internet modems to support spanning Eastern Ontario. Voice2Net has set up more than 2,000 business and residential telephones in the area.
“Right now the technology is well accepted and that's what people are doing but when we started (the network) was poor and the technology was lacking so we had some pretty rough years,” says Primrose. “I was persistent, I had a friend that told me the secret to business is to last.”
While his intuition drove him to be ahead of the curve with VoIP, the same things that have made the technology he sells more accessible and efficient have taken a toll on main street. For businesses like Voice2Net that spend a lot of time selling their services beyond the physical location, staying competitive has meant boosting their digital presence.
Primrose identified that and signed up for the Digital Main Street program when it was introduced by his BIA. The program leverages grants and one-to-one support to help main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities.
“Digital Main Street got us thinking about being found versus just being here,” says Primrose. “There's not enough business in Kemptville to keep our company alive – we do the corridor from Smiths Falls to Chesterville up to Ottawa… (and) those people don't see us by driving down the street, those people see us digitally.”
He started working with Megan McDonald on the Old Town Kemptville BIA’s Digital Service Squad who showed him how to use website analytics to track traffic and see what was working and what wasn’t. Primrose also invested in updating the website.
“When we did that, then we saw the hit,” says Primrose. “You move up in Google because you're being found more often.”
It’s a different world than the one the Voice2Net stepped into 20 years ago. “When we first started with the internet, all you had to do is just go out there and get yourself registered, you'd be found,” he says. “But now there's much more competition.”
But as Primrose is discovering, it’s not impossible to cut through the static, you just need to know what you’re doing. “One of the reasons I know it's working a bit for us is now the suppliers are finding us and bugging us more,” he says with a laugh “Maybe it’s the wrong people finding us – but they’re coming.”
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, and Yellow Pages.
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.