Giving Family Traditions A Digital Future
Big Ricky’s little bake shoppe is a friendly neighbourhood bakery known for their amazing muffins and delicious scones in the Chatham community, Kent. Since opening their doors in 2008, Deborah Chandler, the shop owner and operator, always knew that going online would be the next step for their business, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it inevitable. After shutting down her store, Deb applied for the ShopHERE Powered by Google Program and achieved her long-term goal of having a beautiful website. Now her baked goodness has a new home!
Deb always tested out recipes on her friends and colleagues, as she comes from a family of bakers (her grandmother and mother treated everyone to tasty creations). Deb continued the legacy by bringing her cookies and muffins to her workplaces, and set up Saturday bake sales in her front yard until she finally opened the store in Chatham. She dedicated it to Ricky, one of her children, to his memory and creativity, the story you can read more about here. With the support of her family and friends, Deb has started her entrepreneurial journey that customers can taste as they indulge in hometown treats.
“We love to hear our customers’ stories about sharing our products with friends and family. Memories that ‘homemade’ goods bring back are a precious treasure we delight in being a small part of,” explained Deb. She loves bringing fresh products to those who are unable to make their own as they enjoy the quality of homemade goods instead of factory-produced desserts. Her creations also make for wonderful gifts and treats that are now available for curbside pick-up and take out, thanks to her new website.
Deb admitted those few months proved extremely challenging as survival became paramount and she kept on asking herself “How can we do business? Is there any available help?” Thankfully, the help came. By closely following the news, Deb learned about the ShopHERE initiative and realized she hit the jackpot.
“Since digital is a new language to me, figuring everything out took longer but ShopHERE set me up with a wonderful girl Ashley who was like a breath of fresh air for me! She was respectful and appreciative of the endless hours, and tears I had already invested and we moved forward from there.”
Deb admitted that the transition has been hard but found Shopify free videos very helpful: “I feel I can communicate now in digital ‘baby talk’ so all is not lost! Taking notes helped the information ‘stick’ more successfully.” Deb explained that the Helper became a translator as she guided Deb through the new online territory, and provided necessary encouragement and support. Her hard work paid off as in less than 500 website visits, Deb has received her first 10 sales!
The online store provides an opportunity to integrate the website and the Queen Street store together in a way that compliments the business and makes it easy for all customers. Deb is excited about educating her potential customers on Big Ricky’s little bake shoppe through videos and blogging features. As the business expands, Deb expects the biggest challenge to be finding the right people for the support: “We want our customers to be always proud of sharing our products with their loved ones. The more we learn, the better we can combine the functions and potential of all the aspects of the business.”
Deb encouraged other small businesses to use the opportunity to learn with the ShopHERE Program: “Having the help was a game-changer for me. It enabled me to stop guessing, I could ask a direct question and receive a direct answer which helped quicken the pace for launching the website.” She knows that a lot of available resources can be overwhelming and ShopHERE solves the issue by providing a Helper that guides you through the process.
“It was so nice to know I was growing and had someone to pass the ball to when I got stuck”
Amid difficult and uncertain times, Deb advised other business owners to remember to breathe and let the process unfold: “With a small growing business you wear so many hats, it’s easy to get caught up and become overwhelmed.” She compared the digital journey to off-roading through difficult places in a Jeep. “Take a breath, take your foot off the gas, and the brake, relax and let the Jeep creep forward.” The car will still move forward at a snail’s pace but it will drive forward, slow and steady. You will get to your destination.
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.