TABIA celebrates supporting over 12,500 businesses through FedDev Ontario investments in Digital Main Street
News Release For Immediate Release [May, 2021] – [Toronto]
All businesses have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, retail-oriented main street businesses have suffered, with stores closed and in-person commerce halted. In order to survive, many of these businesses have had to pivot their operations from brick and mortar locations to the digital marketplace. With support from the Government of Canada through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), many main street businesses are turning to virtual storefronts and expanded digital capacity and online presence as a way to maintain their operations and strengthen their resilience for future growth.
Targeted support for main street businesses and SMEs
On May 28, 2020, Google Canada committed $1 million dollars to expand Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program beyond the foundational, Toronto-based program. The investment allowed the program to expand outside of Toronto, and opened up the opportunity for more students and graduates to land jobs.
Following this on June 11, 2020, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, announced a $42.5 million FedDev Ontario investment to expand the Digital Main Street (DMS) platform. Building on foundational investments in Digital Main Street and the ShopHERE powered by Google program, this Government of Canada investment extended the support to businesses across the province to go digital, while creating jobs for post-secondary youth and graduate students. The DMS programming is being delivered across Ontario by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, Communitech and Invest Ottawa.
In southern Ontario, TABIA, in partnership with Communitech and Invest Ottawa, has been delivering the ShopHERE powered by Google program as a part of DMS. Since the funding was announced, over 12,500 businesses have received free digital training, consultations and hands-on support in enhancing online presence and e-commerce opportunities. This support is enabling small businesses to continue engaging and transacting with their customers. Through Mosaic North America, more than 575 youth have been hired and are gaining valuable work experience, creating online storefronts and offering tailored advice to SMEs across the region.
Supporting local businesses to go digital
May Vera Jewelry, in Toronto, started as an idea by Jennifer Hadaway to give new life to designer buttons, charms and pulls by recreating them into new luxurious jewelry. Jennifer had been putting together the idea for her business when COVID-19 forced her to put the brakes on her plans. While already in the process of setting up a Shopify store and finding it overwhelming, Jennifer came across the ShopHERE Powered by Google Program to help launch her online business. Fast forward to her first product launch—in two hours, all but one of her products were purchased and, by the end of the weekend, her first collection was completely sold out. When asked about what is next for May Vera, Jennifer shared,
“The biggest opportunity is the ability to keep growing [it] from here. Since we have learned how to build a website and have a successful first launch now under our belt, it has shown that we will be able to get past any learning curves, and the sky’s the limit!”
Another example is Brothers Brewing Company, which received support from the ShopHERE Powered by Google program to expand its presence beyond a physical storefront in Guelph. Thanks to the program’s support with eCommerce training and a free .CA domain, co-owners Colton and Asa Proveau are now able to sell their entire line of house-brewed craft beer, seltzer and branded merchandise to customers across Ontario. On their experience working with their ShopHERE eCommerce Coordinator, Colton and Asa say that,
“… the process was incredibly quick and easy. As perfectionists, we took our time and made many changes, but I feel like the site could have been launched in one week from beginning to end.”
In Ottawa, the Afro Black Cultural Centre received support from the ShopHERE Powered by Google program to build a new online store, thereby improving its brand’s perceived professionalism by investing in its digital presence. The Afro Black Cultural Centre faced uncertainty and had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participating in the ShopHERE program has enabled the business to stay connected with the community, promote its services, sell merchandise and facilitate studio rentals.
Sisters Sayyeda and Sukaina Ebrahim are the co-owners of Toronto’s Elchi Chai Shop. The pair faced uncertainty when, as a direct result of the pandemic, they found themselves unable to continue selling their popular homemade Chai and Parathas from their restaurant’s location in the heart of Harbord Village. Looking for a way to continue serving their customers despite store closures, Sayyeda and Sukaina participated in the ShopHERE Powered by Google program. They were able to launch their very own online store to facilitate curbside pickup and delivery orders, with 1:1 support from a ShopHERE eCommerce Coordinator. Offering her advice to fellow restaurant owners, Sayyeda says,
“… get your product, whatever it is, online. That’s the way of the future. Even if it’s something small, get it online.”
For more information on Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE Powered by Google program, please visit https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts for all Canadians, including small businesses that are a critical part of local economies. Through this project, TABIA has worked to help bring together the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association, Communitech, and Invest Ottawa – and together we have been able to continue the expansion of our highly successful Digital Main Street program, providing the knowledge transfer, resources, and critical support for small businesses to implement digital tools and services they need to respond to the evolving challenges they currently face.”
– John Kiru, Executive Director – TABIA, Founder – Digital Main Street
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, a source of local jobs – and local pride. With Government of Canada support, thousands of entrepreneurs across Ontario have adopted and expanded their digital presence and more than 1,600 students have been provided jobs since the launch of this program in June 2020. We are so proud to see the incredible impact our DMS partner organizations are having on small businesses in the region, setting them up for success in the future digital economy.”
-The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
- Google Canada committed $1 million dollars to expand Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program beyond the foundational, Toronto-based program.
- The expansion of the Digital Main Street program, through the Government of Canada’s investment of $42.5 million, will support nearly 22,000 businesses and create more than 1,600 student jobs.
- The national $2-billion Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), delivered through Canada’s regional development agencies, provides liquidity support to businesses and not-for-profit organizations affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, that are unable to access other federal relief measures, or require additional support. In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario is delivering $536.4 million to provide financial relief and help businesses recover.
- Digital Main Street
- FedDev Ontario
- Ontario Business Improvement Area Association
- Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas
- Invest Ottawa
- Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
ShopHERE Program Manager, Digital Main Street (TABIA)