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Canadian businesses pivot to digital with help from .CA and ShopHERE program

By Erin Hutchison
Content Marketing and Social Media Specialist

Canadian business owners share their experience building a website through the ShopHERE program.

Any successful entrepreneur knows that if you’re starting a business, you need a website. And while there is no shortage of tools on the market that help you build a site without knowing how to code, the number of options and learning curve can seem overwhelming. As thousands of Canadian businesses shift to e-commerce during the pandemic, many entrepreneurs find they lack the technical skills to develop their own website—or even know where to start.

Sometimes, a little help goes a long way. In September, CIRA announced that we would be providing .CA domains to Canadian businesses and artists that were getting help building websites through Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program.

We spoke with a few small business owners that have recently launched fresh new websites and got the details on how their ShopHERE mentors helped them bring their site from a vision to reality, why they chose a .CA domain, and how the pandemic has impacted their business. | Brothers Brewing Company

“Being a brewery that used to exclusively sell products through our front door, via pints and bottles-to-go, the pandemic completely changed our sales and distribution channels from in-person to 100% online,” said Colton Proveau, owner.

“When the lockdown started in March, we realized quickly we needed to drastically revamp our website from a simple splash page to a customer-centric interface that we attended to numerous times throughout the day. Although this was a scary and drastic change, it has certainly developed new opportunities to reach new customers, create new products, and create a presence outside of our physical location that is accessible anywhere in the world. Necessity is the mother of invention.

“The ShopHERE program allowed us to offer many more product options, delivery/shipping options, improved SEO for organic traffic, and start taking advantage of the marketing tools built within Shopify.

“I think that it is important for local businesses to remain locally driven. Small business truly is the growth engine of our economy, and I feel it is important for Canadian companies to make their Canadianess known. When I shop online, I’m more comfortable making an order from a .CA site and I think our customers are too. A .CA domain gives me confidence that I will receive my order, that I won’t see any unexpected duties and border charges, and if the product is coming across a border, that the Canadian site will be able to solve any issues.” | Mercury Professional Solutions

“Mercury Professional Solutions is a Professional and HR Support firm for businesses, providing them with solutions to foster increased productivity, strategic planning and more,” said Stephanie Mayers, owner.

“Our organization was influenced by the experience newcomers, family and youth have faced working for companies who were not aware of basic employment standards, health and safety protocols or universal human rights. This inspired us to build collaborations and partnerships with businesses to ensure that their workers are protected, by complying with employment laws and legislations, while still maintaining a successful business.

“Through the Digital Main Street ShopHERE program, I was provided with a coordinator who imparted their knowledge, support and resources to have my site launched and allow me to maintain the site going forward. My coordinator continues to check in on me and the business and answer any questions I have. It’s great to have that ongoing support.” | Los Cuernos Adventure Foods

“My husband and I are outdoor enthusiasts. For our honeymoon in 2011, we did a backpacking trip in Patagonia, Chile. Our most memorable trek had a view of the Los Cuernos mountains, “The Horns” of Patagonia. On this trip, we decided we’d had enough of the dense, chalky-tasting protein bars we were eating and discussed the idea of creating an amazing food for hikers. We had been mulling the business idea over and working on the recipe on-and-off for years. When COVID started and we both found ourselves working from home, we decided to seize the opportunity and launch our little granola venture in October!

“The ShopHERE coordinator we worked with was phenomenal.  Knowledgeable, professional, friendly, creative and very responsive.  We couldn’t have gotten the e-commerce portion of the website functioning smoothly without her help.

“In the five weeks since the launch of our online store, we have partnered with three retail locations who are now selling our product. We are making the final preparations to approach ten other local businesses in the 1000 Islands region and hope to have our product in at least five more stores by January 2021.”

Are you thinking about bringing your business online and could use some help? Learn more about the ShopHERE powered by Google program!

About the author
Erin Hutchison

Erin brings to CIRA a background of marketing experience in higher education and the not-for-profit sector. In 2015, she participated in ISOC’s Youth@IGF Programme and traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico to attend the IGF. She has a Bachelor of International Business from Carleton University.