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Sonya Shorey Invest Ottawa

Sonya Shorey

Vice President of Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Invest Ottawa & Bayview Yards

Nick Quain Invest Ottawa

Nick Quain

Vice President of Venture, Invest Ottawa

Government funding is providing small businesses in Ottawa and Southeastern Ontario with free support to help them sell online and future-proof their businesses.

Retail-oriented main street businesses have suffered considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with stores closed and in-person commerce halted. Now, as the economy reopens, small businesses across the country need support — especially in adapting to a digital economy.

The federal and provincial governments have joined together to help small businesses go digital for free through a collaborative pan-Ontario project called Digital Main Street.  

The Digital Main Street program aims to help small businesses by providing access to funding opportunities and a suite of absolutely free digital services that will help them sell online, attract new clients, and thrive in these challenging times of COVID-19.

Main street goes digital

Invest Ottawa, the lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s capital, will architect, develop, and deliver the Digital Main Street program to help future-proof 4,100 small businesses in Ottawa and Southeastern Ontario.

Invest Ottawa is working in collaboration with Launch Lab and the Regional Innovation Centre serving Eastern Ontario, as well as fellow pan-Ontario lead Digital Main Street partners Communitech (Southwestern Ontario) and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIIA).

Building on Toronto’s foundational investments into Digital Main Street and most recently, ShopHERE, the funding will extend the support of the program to businesses across Ontario

The Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), has partnered with Invest Ottawa, the OBIAA, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), and Communitech to provide $42.5 million to deliver the expanded Digital Main Street program.

The Government of Ontario will also provide $7.45 million, primarily to extend the platform’s reach to include main street businesses in Northern Ontario.

Valued at $57 million, the expanded Digital Main Street program will help small businesses impacted by COVID-19 go digital to generate new revenue, survive the pandemic, and thrive in the new economy.

Equipping main street for the digital era

This government investment has allowed Invest Ottawa to establish a team of digital marketing experts, student squads, and business advisors who are all now in place and at the ready to help build, optimize, and grow online businesses.

Through the Digital Main Street program, businesses get access to their own mini digital marketing agency and professional support teams to generate stronger sales and build a more efficient business. It’s quick, easy, and absolutely free.

“Now more than ever, these businesses desperately need these tools,” says Nick Quain, Vice President of Venture at Invest Ottawa.

“We’re looking at how main street companies in sectors like retail services, trades, hospitality, and restaurants can be very strategic about how they can build their revenue, customer base, and long-term sustainability by leveraging technology,” says Sonya Shorey, Vice President of Strategy, Marketing and Communications at Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards, the innovation hub that’s home to Invest Ottawa.

Transformative digital services

The Digital Main Street program includes customized support, such as $2,500 grants administered by the OBIAA to enable companies to adopt new technologies and embrace digital marketing.

It also offers ShopHERE, a turnkey service that sets businesses up with the fundamentals of digital marketing and e-commerce.  It provides retailers with an online store and gives them access to tools to help with training in digital marketing and online sales. ShopHERE provides companies with an e-commerce site, Google My Business, and Google and Facebook ads. “The ShopHERE program is a first tier of support for a business that’s missing all the fundamentals,” says Quain.

ShopHERE is powered by Google, is being delivered by TABIA, and includes critical support from Facebook, Mastercard, Microsoft, and Shopify.

The Future Proof program provides specialized and in-depth digital transformation services and support that help main street businesses adapt to changes in their sector and thrive in the new economy. It also helps companies create new online business models, develop and implement digital and e-commerce marketing strategies, and maximize digital tools, platforms, and content.

“Future-Proofing is very customized and personalized to each specific business’ needs, opportunities, and challenges,” says Shorey. “It’s worth its weight in gold.”

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