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Chatham-Kent Businesses Take Huge Steps in Digital Presence Thanks to Small Business Centre

Since the fall of 2020, the Chatham-Kent Small Business Centre in partnership with the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) has provided the Digital Main Street program to local businesses. A significant portion of this program was focused on the now closed grant opportunity of $2500 to assist businesses with their digital transformation. Eighty nine Chatham-Kent businesses received this grant for a total of $225,000. Combined with the $95,000 in funding that was received by the municipality to hire Digital Main Street Squad Members on a six-month contract, Chatham-Kent was the recipient of $320,000 in local investment to improve our digital footprint.

“This program has been an incredible success for the community and came at a critical time when businesses needed to shift online,” said Jamie Rainbird, Manager of Chatham-Kent Economic Development. “The program was about much more than just the money. It featured digital assessments for the businesses which acted like a report card and showed exactly where they could make improvements in their online presence.”

Following the grants conclusion in January, the squad members shifted focus to assisting businesses with a number of activities including developing a Google My Business profile, enhancing their social media presence, taking 360-degree photos, and providing support of basic website and e-commerce set-ups.

“The Digital Main Street program allowed us the opportunity to fast track ideas and thoughts we already had in mind,” said Josh Bueckert, Chilled Cork and Loaded 2 Go. “With the assistance of the Digital Main Street program, our Loaded 2 Go store which opened not to long after the first lockdown was able to move certain aspects of the business into a digital area that not only saved us time but people power. It allowed our team to be better spent in front of our customers as we tried and continue to try to build up the Loaded 2 Go name.”

“Digital Main Street has helped me understand the benefits of social media and attracting customers to our website during the past year. We have increased our online advertising to include google ads and created a social media plan to engage with our customers,” said Christal Wills, McKellar’s Flowers & Gifts. “We are still working on implementing more videos and stories to help our customers get to know us better as well as learning the benefits of how to read analytics and using them to increase traffic online and in the shop.”

Beyond just the downtown regions, which was a limitation of the grant, the squad provided support to businesses across Chatham-Kent. This extended reach ensured a greater range of business types and industries could be helped.

“A strength of Chatham-Kent’s small business community is the diversity available in products and services,” said Rainbird. “This advantage provides resiliency to our local economy and offers the community a greater range of options when it comes to shopping local.”

“We can't say enough good things about the team at the Chatham-Kent Digital Service Squad. They kept us aware of the program and assisted us with anything we needed along the way,” said Mike and Pam Davison, Summer’s Gold Honey.

Overall, the program was very well received and, while the grant is no longer available and the squad support is coming to a close at the end of the month, the Small Business Centre reminds business owners that they are available for ongoing free help.

Everyone across the community from existing business owners to those just thinking about starting a business are invited to attend a series of education events and workshops running through the Small Business Centre from now and throughout the summer. The next session titled “Digital Marketing on a Shoestring Budget” is being held on May 19, 2021.

“The pace of change has been accelerated over the past year in response to the needs of the pandemic and we are extremely proud of the local business community for stepping up to the challenges,” said Rainbird. “The past 14 months have been an extremely difficult for everyone. However, it is important to let businesses know they do not have to go it alone. We are here to help in any way we can.”

For more information about the Small Business Centre and upcoming activities, please visit www.investck.ca and click on the link for Upcoming Events. You can also call 1-866-542-5994 or email cksbc@chatham-kent.ca for assistance.

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John and Katherine of Cellar Door Wines in Wheatley said, “Our choice of digital presence was to create an online store. We are very happy how www.ordercellardoorwines.com turned out and are looking forward to sharing it. We are excited to use our online store and continue to use our newfound skills of better communication with our customers through posting better content.”

Media Contact:

Andrew Tompsett
Marketing and Communications Officer
Economic Development Services, Community Development
Municipality of Chatham-Kent
124 Thames Street, Chatham, ON N7M 5K8
Email: andrewt@chatham-kent.ca
Phone: 519-352-8401 x2039