Help for small businesses: A resource guide for Ontarians
Covid-19 hasn’t been easy on Ontario small businesses, but we recently heard about a new initiative called Digital Main Street that will be useful to many of you who could use some help on the digital front. Digital Main Street has three programs—ShopHERE, Ontario Grants, and Future Proof—to assist as many as 30,000 small businesses. It’s funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario.
“The core goal [of these programs] will be to help small businesses compete and grow, in a world that is increasingly online, to help them recover as quickly as possible following Covid-19,” government officials noted in a press release.
With social distancing rules and changing regulations, the adoption of digital technologies is more important than ever. Read on to learn more about these opportunities for assistance with your digital transformation.
What is Digital Main Street?
Created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto, Digital Main Street is a service directed at helping businesses with their digital transformation. Participants use an online platform to access training programs about adopting digital tools and technology.
What are the programs?
The three programs, ShopHERE, Ontario Grants, and Future Proof, assist Ontario businesses with their digital transformation. The broader goal of the initiative is to stimulate recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s a look at the individual programs.
More and more, businesses must compete online. This program enables independent small businesses and artists with online shopping capabilities by offering assistance, support, and tools to set up an online store. Participants will receive their choice store with branding, assistance with set-up, training in ongoing administration, and access to free tools. A collaboration with Google, Shopify, Mastercard, and Microsoft, the ShopHERE program will provide small businesses with a free online store, quickly and easily.
To be eligible for this program, applicants must either be an artist, or:
be a registered business or a registered non-profit organization
have a commercial location or be home-based
have fewer than 10 employees or fewer than 25 employees if you’re a restaurant or bar
not be a corporate chain or franchise
be located in Ontario or a participating municipality
Digital transformation is more than just websites. Some businesses will need funding to get their enterprise the digital help it needs. Ontario Grants has two funding opportunities:
1/ The Digital Transformation Grant Program will pay up to $2,500 towards training and guidance around digital transformation for your business.
2/ The Digital Service Squad Grant Program provides one-on-one assistance in Ontario communities.
These grants are not yet launched. You can sign up to receive notifications at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/ontariogrants/
For some Ontario businesses, Covid-19 has meant an entirely new approach. Delivered in partnership with Communitech and Invest Ottawa, Future Proof will help businesses with the changing market landscape by identifying new markets, finding ways to pivot in their business model, and assisting with a deep digital transformation plan.
This program is not yet live. You can sign up to receive notifications at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/futureproof/
Great! What do I do next?
If one of these programs is a fit with your business, the very first thing you need to do is sign up for a Digital Main Street account at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/business-account/registration/. From there, follow the instructions regarding the program that fits your needs. Good luck!