Grassroots Victoria group offering pro-bono tech and marketing support to local businesses


YYJLocalsForLocals, a grassroots community of software workers in Victoria, are looking to use their digital skills to help small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group of tech and marketing professionals is offering pro-bono assistance to local small businesses, restaurants, and bars. Volunteer support is being provided by YYJTech, a Slack group for the tech industry in Victoria, and YYJTechLadies, a Slack group of women in tech in Victoria.

“Our hope is to help more traditional small businesses stay open and okay during this crisis.”

“Our hope is to help more traditional small businesses stay open and okay during this crisis, particularly those that may not have had the opportunity to digitize,” the group states on its website.

“Even one Instagram ad could mean the difference between no sales or a flood of sales. Victorians are eager to support their local businesses, and they’re willing to find creative ways to offer that support,” the group added. “Our goal is to help businesses find creative ways to reach those customers.”

Any small business located in Victoria, Vancouver Island, or the Gulf Islands, can request one of the eight pro-bono services on the group’s website through a form. One of the group’s tech and marketing volunteers will then contact the business. YYJLocalsForLocals eight main services include:

  • Help designing merchandise to drive sales
  • Building a single page website
  • Write a message about how a business is handling COVID-19
  • Email design to send to customers
  • Social media post or ad copy and design
  • Help setting up gift card sales on a website
  • Marketing help to promote a delivery service
  • Help setting up a subscription box service

The project was organized by Emily Hannan, a software developer at Siteimprove, Eve Olynyk, a marketing specialist at Stocksy United, Tara Price, a UX designer, and Nathan Sorochan, a product designer at The four met remotely through the YYJTech and YYJTechLadies Slack groups, and felt the need to do something quickly to help local businesses during the crisis.

“We all experienced the last recession in 2008 and 2009, and watched so many small businesses fail,” Hannan told BetaKit. “As the current crisis was beginning to unfold, we started to witness restaurant owners completely at a loss, worried that the businesses they’d invested so much in were in danger of disappearing.”

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She said she and the co-organizers realized a relatively small amount of marketing, web, and design work could help small businesses create or improve their online presence in ways that would put them in a better position to manage during the pandemic.

As of Tuesday morning, there are 472 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia, and thirteen people have died. The City of Victoria has created a resource hub for local businesses to find out what resources the federal and provincial governments are providing to support businesses.

Hannan told BetaKit the climate in Victoria’s tech community is still optimistic and energized, despite the current health crisis.

“A lot of us work in tech in Victoria, and know how much our cafes, restaurants, and coffee shops that we visit every day on our lunches and breaks depend on foot traffic to stay open,” Hannan said. “The general feeling is one of taking charge early to help with our talents and skills, knowing without our small businesses, Victoria could lose the culture we live here for.”

Image source MontseSB

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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