Helping hands are being extended to small downtown businesses making use of digital technologies and building their online presence as they recover from economic hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Business Centre Guelph Wellington, in partnership with the Downtown Guelph Business Association, Wellington County, Township of Centre Wellington and the BIAs of Elora, Fergus and Erin/Hillsburg, has received a $115,000 grant from Digital Main Street Ontario to administer a squad of trained specialists to work with small downtown businesses to develop their digital footprint and boost revenue.
The Digital Service Squad is a six-member team that will offer free advice and support with several activities including website and e-commerce set-up, social media engagement and developing a Google My Business profile. The squad will also help qualified small businesses with the application process for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant, which includes an online assessment, online training modules and the development of a Digital Transformation Plan.
“This is great news for Guelph and Wellington County,” said Marty Williams, Executive Director of the Downtown Guelph BIA. “The Digital Main Street program has already made a huge difference to small businesses in Downtown Guelph during COVID and with this new round of funding we are poised to triple the initial impact.”
Digital Main Street was established in 2018 to support small businesses to incorporate digital technologies and build their online business model. The program was recently extended thanks to an investment of $42.5 million from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) and $7.45 million from the Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT).
The nearly $50 million combined investment will help small businesses regain lost revenue and become more resilient and competitive as the economy recovers and more people shop online.
“The COVID-19 pandemic hit Ontario’s main streets hard, so Digital Main Street is needed more than ever,” said Kay Matthews, executive director of the Ontario BIA Association, which administers the grant. “We know that businesses that participated in Digital Main Street last year were better able to cope when the pandemic hit, and we’re excited … to extend this important program to help businesses in communities like Guelph and Wellington County.”
Kelly Linton, the mayor of Centre Wellington and the warden of Wellington County says the new investment will help small businesses re-emerge from COVID-19 more successful and resilient, thus building a stronger community.
“Our downtown businesses attract visitors, create jobs, support families and make life better for everyone who calls Wellington County home,” he said.
One of the first beneficiaries of the new Digital Support Squad program will be Suraj Chettri, the owner of the Himalayan Grocer on Macdonell Street. Chhetri was recently awarded the Digital Main Street grant to help him launch DrukCan, which is his own brand of imported Nepali products to sell in stores and online across Canada. He says he’s excited to receive support in developing his online marketplace and building a YouTube channel.
Past grant recipients include Lauryn Conlon of Lift Guelph, an exercise studio, and Sandra Smith of Gilded Cage, a fashion store.
To learn more about the Digital Support Squad, and to apply for the Digital Main Street grant, visit https://www.guelphbusiness.com/.