Keeping First Responders Safe Across Canada And The World

by Madeleine Cruickshank   |   August 24, 2020   |   Share this:  

For many businesses looking to create a website and begin an online presence, the process can seem expensive and time-consuming. Web designers or agencies need to be contacted, quotes need to be vetted, and many other steps need to be followed before a finished website is up and running. 

Before applying to the ShopHERE Powered By Google Program, the process of launching an e-commerce website seemed daunting to Safedesign Apparel Ltd., a Toronto-based Fire Service supplier. But Mark Christie, Safedesign’s Sales and Marketing Manager, says the ShopHERE Program streamlined the process significantly. “I just needed that push to get it going,” he says. From there, everything fell into place quickly.  

“I think the program is great! It was an easy way to get started.”

With the help of Ashley, a ShopHERE eCommerce Coordinator, Mark says the process of building and launching a website was quick and easy. “We didn't need to vet an agency and assess their quote to get us up and running,” he says. “It all just happened.” Ashley went above and beyond by copying over information from Safedesign’s previous website and transferring it into Shopify, an all-in-one eCommerce platform known for being user-friendly to both merchants and customers. “With this,” Mark says, “we had proof of concept to gain buy-in throughout our organization.” This gave Mark and his team the momentum they needed to finish building the website and launching it in under a month. 

Digital Main Street ShopHERE Program powered by Google Graduate, Safedesign Apparel

 “Ashley was super helpful, cheery and great to work with. I really appreciated her commitment to help.”

Safedesign Apparel Ltd. has been the recognized supplier of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and stationwear for firefighters across Ontario since 1989. But before the business’ website launched, Safedesign were struggling to reach a market they knew existed. “Typically we deal directly with fire departments and municipal agencies,” Mark says, “but we didn't have a way to reach individuals and northern communities who would be interested in our products.”  

Digital Main Street ShopHERE Program powered by Google Graduate, Safedesign Apparel

Now that Safedesign’s eCommerce website is live, the business has already seen an increase in communication across these previously unreachable audiences. “Our engagement with potential customers has increased dramatically,” Mark says, which has led to overall growth for the company which would have previously been too expensive. 

“The option to sell our products [online] justifies the cost to advertise online so now we can reach the people we need to reach without blowing our budget.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for the Safedesign team. Mark explains that “as a supplier to first responders we've been considered ‘essential' through the lockdown. [But] even though our doors remained open, we had our challenges.” Projects and opportunities needed to be tabled, and sudden changes to the USD/CAD exchange rate led to lower than expected margins. Delays in production have also hampered them. Despite this, there have been upsides for Safedesign’s business. “We hope to access a region that was difficult to access prior to selling online,” Mark says. “Thanks to the ShopHERE Program we have a great platform to market our products to our international customers as well as local firefighters.”

Digital Main Street ShopHERE Program powered by Google Graduate, Safedesign Apparel

Why should other businesses consider joining ShopHERE? “They get you started,” Mark says. “This program offered us the push we needed to get our website up and running.” And when it comes to giving other businesses advice on how to navigate the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, Mark keeps it short and simple: 

“Just. Keep. Going!”

It’s so important for businesses and artists of all kinds to expand the ways in which they reach their customers. To learn more about ShopHERE and apply to the program, click here. To learn more about Safedesign, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

About Digital Main Street

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.

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