Toronto mayor John Tory announced the launch of an online business support program called Digital Main Street, with the goal of supporting Toronto’s small businesses.
Tory was joined by project partner representatives from the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), Google Canada, MasterCard, Rogers Communications, Shopify, and Yellow Pages to share the announcement. The platform is available to businesses regardless of whether or not they are part of a BIA.
“Technology has changed the demands and expectations of consumers and Toronto’s Main Street businesses require our support to help them thrive in today’s retail environment,” said Tory. “When fewer than half of Canadian small businesses have a website, the need for this kind of service is widespread and immediate.”
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The portal will allow businesses to receive a free digital assessment to find out how they can better adopt digital initiatives — including receiving a ‘to-do list’ and recommendations to technology partners that can help them meet goals. The portal also includes a ‘digital service squad’ of George Brown College students and recent grads to assist with onboarding basic tech and completing digital assessments and a BIAcademy suite of learning and development opportunities focused on helping Main Street businesses adopt new tech.
Startups working in the retail innovation will also have a chance to work at BIA Lab, a business incubator that will match tech companies with Main Street businesses to test and scale their businesses.
“Online is the new local for small businesses, and not having a digital presence can mean missing the first point of contact with future customers,” said Nyla Ahmad, senior vice president of enterprise marketing at Rogers Communications. “Being part of the Digital Main Street initiative in partnership with the City of Toronto will allow us to help small businesses get the support they need to attract customers in a digital environment and discover technologies that will ultimately help them succeed.”
Digital Main Street was developed by the City of Toronto and TABIA, with advisory and web development services from Kinetic Cafe. The project was developed in consultation with Toronto’s BIAs and technology companies — the official website names Bitmaker Labs, Hubba, and Square Canada as partners.
The project’s private sector partners provided the funding for this initiative, while other participating companies will contribute free trials and discounted services, as well as training and workshops for BIAs and businesses with Digital Main Street.
“At Shopify, our goal is to spread entrepreneurship, which we’ve spent over a decade doing by making ecommerce easy for over 275,000 businesses around the world and many right here in Toronto,” said Satish Kanwar, Director of Product at Shopify. “We’re excited to be working with the City to help create an ecosystem that encourages even more opportunities for small businesses.”
Photo credit @LaurenMostowyk