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Small businesses target hungry Canadians with help from .CA and ShopHERE program

By Meghan Graham
Digital Marketing Manager

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

If you’re in the food and drink industry, you know how powerful it can be to showcase your tasty products to consumers online. But where do you start when it comes to setting up a website?

Thousands of Canadian businesses shifted to e-commerce during the pandemic, and many entrepreneurs found they lacked the technical skills to develop a website—or even where to start.

Sometimes, a little help goes a long way. Since September, CIRA has been providing .CA domains to Canadian businesses and artists that are building websites through Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program.

We spoke with a few small business owners in the food and drink industry who recently launched fresh new websites. We got the low-down 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. | Rabbit Lake Baking Company

Rabbit Lake Baking Company provides baking kits for bakers and non-bakers alike. “We do all the ‘hard’ work of obtaining ingredients, measuring and sifting and provide you with easy-to-follow instructions. You just supply the perishables,” said Kelly Stobbe, owner.

As a lifelong baker, Kelly wanted to share her love of baking with people. “Not everybody is a baker, and I wanted people to experience the joy and accomplishment of making baked goods that are delicious and easy,” says Kelly. Her focus is on sustainability, so her kits come in reusable muslin bags.

The ShopHERE program was instrumental in launching my business so quickly. I would not have been able to get my online business started as professionally as I did. The coordinators are all knowledgeable and really walk you through the program. If small businesses want to have an online store, this is a great opportunity for them to get set up.

Rabbit Lake Baking Company made the conscious decision to choose .CA to highlight the fact that their company is Canadian based.  “It signifies to our clients that we support Canadian business and are proud of that.”

“The past two months have gotten more challenging. I offered curbside pickup as many clients prefer this option. My advice is to pivot while you can. Things are going to change, and you may need to pivot again once things are ’back to normal.’” | Trillium Maple Farm

Trillium Maple farm is an off-grid maple syrup producer in northern Ontario, established in 2018, that supplies Canadians with pure Ontario maple syrup.

“The process of setting up our online store was fairly easy with the help of my coordinator,” said Susan Ackert, owner. “It’s been very difficult as a small business owner with everything turning to online sales and home deliveries. This program should help us out a lot [to get] our product to customers.”

“We wanted to stand out as a Canadian business and we think the .CA domain address will help with the trend to shop local within Canada.” | Steep Hill Tea Company

Steep Hill Tea Company is a family-owned and operated business that believes tea is much more than a delicious beverage—it is an essential part of a daily, health-conscious lifestyle.

“We only sell premium loose-leaf teas. The tea leaves used are among the finest available and are sourced from the top 10% of global producers—each with a flawless ethical track record,” said Dino Capuani, owner.

The program helped me maneuver through mounds of information required to start up an e-commerce site. It was challenging and a bit overwhelming regarding the amount of work required to set up an e-commerce store. The ShopHERE associates helped with some of the laborious tasks for the initial site setup, thus saving me valuable time for other priorities. This also helped accelerate the time to market for my business.” | Black Stripe Coffee

David Gegolick has had an obsession with coffee from a very young age. In his early school days, he hid a drip coffee machine in his closet to make coffee every morning before school. In 2015, he purchased his first coffee roaster. What started as roasting coffee for him and his wife at home quickly turned into demand for fresh coffee from family and friends. This demand forced David to upgrade his roaster, and Black Stripe Coffee was born.

“ShopHERE made it easy to launch an e-commerce website with no upfront costs. The website can be built at your own pace while providing input throughout the process. I think it’s a no-brainer for businesses to use the ShopHERE program to get a website launched,” said Davin Gegolick, owner.

“Now that I have a professional website, I feel that my business has reached the next level where I now have an online presence outside of social media. The website has opened so many other opportunities for marketing and promotion, which will hopefully drive future sales. My online store has only been set up for about a month, but every day I’m seeing more and more orders through the store.”

“Adding the .CA to my website has helped to simplify my website address and make it easier for my customers to access my site.”

“Instead of dwelling on the negatives of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses should start thinking outside the box to keep their businesses afloat. Having an online presence and options for safe product deliveries and/or pickups helps to keep your business afloat while building new customers along the way. For me and my coffee-roasting business, sales through some channels decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with more people spending time at home (and appreciating fresh quality coffee), I’ve made so many new customers that I’ve noticed an increase in sales since the pandemic.

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

About the author
Meghan Graham

Meghan Graham is the Digital Marketing Manager at CIRA. She brings over 10 years of experience in marketing and communications in non-profit, technology, SaaS, and UX. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Ottawa joint program with Algonquin College.