City of Toronto further expands Digital Main Street program to help local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Today, Mayor John Tory announced another expansion of the Digital Main Street program, as two new funding partners have joined the program and additional initiatives have been launched that will focus on helping businesses in Toronto and across Ontario embrace technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today both Intuit Quickbooks and Facebook Canada are also joining Digital Main Street as funding partners. Their support will help Digital Main Street expand their small business support programs that are dedicated to providing one-on-one support to main street businesses looking to digitally transform their operations.

The program is also launching three new Digital Main Street Programs as a result of funding from the Province of Ontario and FedDev Ontario. The programs are aimed at ensuring main street business communities can adapt and future proof their businesses during this unprecedented time. The programs under the Digital Main Street Future Proof banner include: Transformation Teams, the Digital Main Street Lab and a new Community Collaboration Program.

The Transformation Teams program will offer individual main street businesses a customized business transformation plan and implementation support at no cost. Businesses will work with an interdisciplinary team of marketing professionals, web designers and creators to help update their business model, develop their digital transformation plan, and implement the plan in up to six weeks. Applications for businesses can be found at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/transformation-teams/.

The Digital Main Street Lab is designed to bring technology companies and communities together to pilot technologies that offer innovative support to main street businesses. Collaborations will be provided with up to $25,000 in funding to help implement pilot projects that offer technological improvements to local business communities. Applications are being accepted until October 31, 2020 and can be submitted at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/digital-main-street-lab/.

As part of the Digital Main Street Lab, one identified collaboration includes the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA), who will work with the Beach Village BIA and West Queen West BIA to pilot a new community retail model with Toronto-based tech company Hubba. This pilot project will include opportunities to help small businesses improve their local retail sales by giving them access to new and unique products to sell to their customers, while testing unique local commerce business models and new technology.

The Community Collaboration Program will be focused on solving the big challenges facing main street. The program aims to bring together Toronto’s innovation community with the main street business community to identify challenges and work together to create solutions that will help future proof main street for years to come.

Digital Main Street was created by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) in 2016 to assist main street businesses in growing their operations through technology with easy to use tools and resources. The program is also supported by Google, Mastercard, Shopify and Microsoft.

Since its launch, the Digital Main Street program has engaged more than 8,000 Toronto businesses and provided direct one-on-one support to 2,500+ businesses, delivering more than 12,000 hours of support, training and education. Prior to working with the Digital Main Street program, 30 per cent of businesses had no online presence. These businesses have now moved online and an additional 66 per cent of businesses expanded their online presence.

The further expansion of the Digital Main Street program is a part of the Mayor's Economic Support and Recovery Task Force's short-term economic support and recovery plan for Toronto's businesses.

As part of the City of Toronto and Digital Main Street’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, additional programs were launched to support small businesses with their adoption of technology, including: ShopHERE, where small businesses and artists can receive a new online store built at no-cost to support their operations, and Digital Service Squad where small businesses can get one-on-one virtual help with setting up and using new technologies. Interested business owners can sign up at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere/ for the ShopHERE program or at https://digitalmainstreet.ca/toronto/ to sign up for help from the Digital Service Squad.

The City’s website is updated daily with the latest health advice and information about City services and social supports. Check https://www.toronto.ca/covid-19/ for answers to common questions before contacting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Hotline or 311.

Quotes:

"Digital Main Street has proven to be a successful program that is helping businesses across this city expand their offerings and to help them get online so that they can broaden their customer base. The continued expansion of the Digital Main Street program provides Toronto's small businesses with the opportunity to not just survive but to thrive under the challenges brought on by the current pandemic."

- Mayor John Tory

"The added support of Facebook and Intuit will significantly expand Digital Main Street's ability to bring main street businesses the up-to-date insights and technology tools they need to thrive in our radically altered economy."

- Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Scarborough Centre (Ward 21), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee

"We're excited to see what the Beach Village BIA and West Queen West partnership with Hubba through one of the first Digital Main Street Labs in the province will bring to the local shops in these two communities."

- Councillor Brad Bradford, Beaches-East York (Ward 19)

"This is a great opportunity for our local businesses. The pilot project with West Queen West BIA, Beach Village BIA and Hubba will help small shops improve their local retail sales in an innovative way, testing unique local commerce business models and new technologies.”

- Councillor Joe Cressy, Spadina-Fort York (Ward 10)

“Supporting digitization of local business is the foundation of Digital Main Street and the Future Proof program with its pilot projects in support of main street businesses is yet another step in that direction. Welcoming two new partners to the Digital Main Street family to help deliver this expansion during these unprecedented times is very exciting and rewarding.”

- John Kiru, Executive Director, Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas

"We are grateful to participate in this program that is in line with our passion for helping small businesses. With this initiative, we are able to utilize Hubba's current strength of using technology and data to support main street businesses while, simultaneously, working with forward thinking BIAs to pilot some of the interesting retail concepts we have been working on."

- Ben Zifkin, CEO, Hubba

The Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) is a non-profit umbrella organization working with the 83 Business Improvement Areas within the City of Toronto, who in turn represent more than 40,000 business and property owners.

Hubba is the largest wholesale marketplace that connects emerging CPG brands and independent retailers. Hubba helps today's buyers find, purchase, and sell-through the right unique products for their stores. Based on detailed profiles and preferences, and using a mix of AI and personal curation, Hubba recommends a personalized product catalog customized for each buyer. By negotiating terms upfront, Hubba makes the buying process easier and wholesale orders can be completed online with the click of a few buttons. Headquartered in Toronto, Hubba services thousands of brands and retailers across North America.

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