Google Canada has committed $1 million CAD to expand Digital Main Street’s ShopHere program with a new pledge to help get 50,000 small businesses online this year.
ShopHere was developed by Digital Main Street, which was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Area. It is supported by several companies including Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, and Shopify. The program helps build online stores for small independent businesses and artists in a short time.
Google notes that since storefronts across the country have had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a digital presence can give these businesses the opportunity to continue operating and growing. By building a digital platform, they can continue to reach customers and make sales.
It outlines that small businesses employ 90 percent of the private sector workforce, which is currently being impacted by the pandemic. Some of these impacts can be mitigated by continuing to operate online.
Google’s investment will give more municipalities access to the program across the country. It notes that it will also help more small businesses receive the digital skills and training they need in order to participate in a digital economy.
As part of the ShopHere program, businesses get their choice of an online store customized with their specific information and branding. They also receive hands-on assistance with setting up and launching the online store.
ShopHere then provides the businesses with training to support the online store. This includes training related to digital marketing, shipping and inventory management. Businesses will also get access to free tools to help support the launches of their online stores.
Toronto Mayor John Tory says now that this program will soon be available to municipalities across the country, he is encouraging communities to sign up and support their local businesses.
“Since the launch of our ShopHere program, over 1,000 Toronto businesses have signed up to expand their digital presence. We must do everything we can to support our main street small businesses and help them survive this crisis,” Mayor John Tory said in an emailed press release.
A spokesperson from Google tells MobileSyrup that Toronto is well on its way to surpassing its goal of helping 3,000 businesses already.
The program is open to small independent businesses that are not a corporate chain or franchise. The business must also be registered and have a commercial location or be home-based. Lastly, the company must have fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 employees if the business is a restaurant or bar.
Google says that Canadian university and college students who are currently facing a challenging job market will be hired to work with these businesses to build their online presence.
The online stores that are being developed through the program in Toronto are being completed by volunteer developers and students from York University’s Schulich School of Business.
ShopHere will begin rolling out in select municipalities next month and businesses will be able to apply for the program online.
Update 28/05/20: The article was updated to clarify that Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Area.