The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), an agency of the Government of Canada, has announced funding for a new program to teach Halifax SMEs how to scale online with the help of eBay.
The Government of Canada, through ACOA, is contributing $60,000 to the Halifax Partnership, an economic development organization, to help it to launch and oversee the program.
SMEs in Halifax and from across Nova Scotia will have the opportunity to participate in eBay’s Retail Revival Program, which works with small businesses and local governments to teach digital skills needed to attract new customers and reach new markets through ecommerce.
Minister Ng reiterated past statements that helping SMEs scale and grow into international markets through ecommerce is key.
The Halifax program will focus on developing ecommerce skills, with the specific focus on helping Canadian businesses with exporting according to Andrea Stairs the general manager of eBay Canada and Latin America, who was on hand to make the announcement at Volta, the Halifax-based innovation hub.
Stairs emphasized how exporting opens up new markets for Canadian businesses and statistics have shown that export rates are higher when using ecommerce.
“We want our small and medium-sized businesses to grow, we want them to grow domestically, but we also want them to grow by exporting,” Mary Ng, the minister of small business and export promotion, told BetaKit.
Ng, who was was recently appointed to the position by prime minister Justin Trudeau last July, reiterated past statements to BetaKit that helping SMEs scale and grow into international markets through ecommerce is key. “We know that the Canadian brand is strong and that the world wants more Canada.”
The 12-month eBay program is being coordinated by the Halifax Partnership with support from Nova Scotia Business Inc. and once the program is up and running they will choose local entrepreneurs and brick-and-mortar businesses to participate. eBay will help the chosen SMEs with onboarding to its ecommerce platform, as well as provide ongoing support and training in sales and marketing as well as additional resources, such as customer service support.
Stairs told BetaKit that the majority of the funding as well as the contribution of man hours including an on-the-ground coordinator and support staff from across North America, will come from eBay. Between 60 to 70 retailers, mainly small brick-and-mortar businesses will be chosen for the program and will participate in a boot camp and receive formal classroom training, as well as one-on-one peer support from existing eBay sellers. Groups like Export Development Canada (EDC), the Trade Commissioner Service and Canada Post may also contribute advice and expertise to the program participants.
eBay first launched a pilot of the Retail Revival Program a year ago in conjunction with Akron, Ohio. Since then it has worked with Lansing, Michigan, and Wolverhampton, U.K. to teach local businesses the necessary digital skills to succeed online. Halifax is the first Canadian city to participate in the program.
It has been rumoured that this collaboration with eBay came out of a direct discussion between Trudeau and Devin Wenig, eBay’s president and CEO, about finding ways to help Canadian SMEs increase exporting through digital means. The pair met in February while Trudeau was on a four-day tour of the U.S. to promote trade and investment, where he also met with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, according to CBC.
Stairs told BetaKit that yes, Trudeau and Wenig did have a conversation and were both excited about the opportunity of bringing the Retail Revival Program to Canada, which is something she said the eBay Canada team had been working towards already. She noted that this is the first Retail Revival Program that has worked with all three levels of government with support from federal, provincial and, municipal governments.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are essential to our economy, and we want to see them thrive,” said Stephen McNeil the premier of Nova Scotia. “Nova Scotia is partnering with eBay to help our smaller retailers start exporting or grow their exports through ecommerce, and we are making sure the pilot can have both a footprint in Halifax and extend its reach and benefits to retailers in communities across the province.”
The Government of Nova Scotia is also contributing $25,000 to Nova Scotia Business Inc. to help support the Halifax, eBay program. The funding is part of the Government of Canada’s Atlantic Growth Strategy, which is working towards creating long-term economic prosperity in the region.
The program will begin for the chosen participants in mid-March and run through to March 2019.
Updated 01/24/19: This story has been updated with statements from eBay Canada.