For the past three years, Susan Lee-Macdonald has been making homemade treats for her dog Dumpling out of her kitchen in Toronto. When the pandemic hit and she began spending more time around the house, she started sharing Dumpling’s treats with other furry friends in the neighborhood. Soon enough, the dogs were starting to drag their owners back to Susan’s house for their daily snack. As popularity for the canine treats grew in her community, Susan decided to take a leap, joined Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE powered by Google program and created Dumpling’s Treats, an online business where she sells one ingredient, human-grade dog treats.
Susan’s journey is one of the many inspiring small business stories we’ve heard over the past year. This week, Google is celebrating and supporting small businesses around the world during our second annual International Small Business Week, and we’re taking a moment to reflect on one year of ShopHERE powered by Google, helping small businesses across Canada get online.
ShopHERE was launched last April by Digital Main Street (TABIA) and the City of Toronto to help independent businesses, entrepreneurs and artists build a digital presence and minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic Last May, Google Canada announced a one million dollar commitment to scale the program and ShopHERE powered by Google was born. In the weeks to follow, FedDev Ontario and the Ontario Provincial government announced a $57M investment to expand the program across Ontario, offering more businesses like Susan’s the opportunity to build an online store.
We’re excited to share that to date, 25,000 Canadian businesses have signed up for the program, including 64% that identify as women and 33% that identify as BIPOC. Additionally, over 780 university and college students and grads have been hired to build websites for the businesses, with 54% identifying as female and 75% as BIPOC. This comes at a time when consumers across the country are rallying behind small businesses. Google searches for “support local businesses” have grown by more than 20,000% since last year. For the businesses, the program had a tremendous impact on their ability to stay afloat and reach customers beyond the traditional main street.
But it’s not just the businesses that are benefiting. ShopHERE powered by Google hired university and college students to build the online stores for the participating small businesses. Students like Vanessa Rodrigues, who claims the program’s thorough training and onboarding allowed her to build an incredibly wide digital skill set, like learning about branding, how to create websites on e-commerce platforms, and how to train businesses on digital marketing. Vanessa has been able to walk away with a new set of digital skills and connections with a number of businesses, providing a foot in the door for future opportunities.
As businesses and communities reopen and recover, we know online shopping behaviours are here to stay -- 42% of Canadian shoppers want to check inventory online prior to going to the store and 41% of Canadian shoppers get ideas and inspiration for purchases online1. So as we look to recovery, it’s more important than ever that businesses continue to build out their online presence. Eligible businesses are still able to sign up for the ShopHERE powered by Google program, and can get helpful tips and tricks to expand online from Google for Small Business. Check out this blog to hear from a few of the Canadian businesses that participated in the program over the past year.