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What is the Digital Economy Program?

The Digital Economy Program is designed to help small businesses take their businesses online. This program, a partnership between Business Link and Digital Main Street, will help small businesses in Alberta undergo digital transformations and adopt eCommerce practices to help their business not only survive, but also thrive.

Join The Digital Economy Program

The program can help your business: 

  • Improve your ability to reach customers online; 
  • Increase sales; 
  • Elevate your business’ eCommerce presence 

Participating small businesses will learn to use and maintain digital tools to adopt eCommerce practices that are essential to succeed in today’s competitive environment.

Eligibility

This program is open to home-based or commercial small businesses registered in Alberta with less than 50 employees.

Please note: Non-profits, charitable trusts, and franchises are not considered eligible businesses under this program. We’re happy to offer our support through many of our other services and programs to those that do not qualify.

Sign Up and Get Help for Your Business

Eligible businesses can benefit from FREE 1-on-1 support from these platforms to transition online:

Get help creating and customizing your online store. You’ll be trained on how to manage and market your online store and will be provided with the support that you need to make your online shop successful. Access free 1-on-1 support to build and launch your store, and more.

Register Now

You will be redirected to our partners’ registration page.

Digital Service Squad (DSS)

The DSS is focused on providing 1-on-1 FREE local assistance for digital services to small businesses in any region of Alberta. It will include training and advisory support towards digital strategy development, Google My Business assistance, social media posts, taking awesome pictures for your businesses, and more. The DSS will be available through local business support providers starting this fall.

Pre-register your business to have your information forwarded to a local DSS when it becomes available.

Join the DSS Application Waitlist

You will be redirected to our partners’ registration page.

Proudly Supported By

Business Link
TABIA

FAQs

Business Link and Digital Main Street (DMS) are collaborating to implement a two-year Digital Economy Program that delivers digital economy supports to Alberta small businesses.

The Digital Economy Program will include two core streams: ShopHERE and the Digital Service Squads (DSS).

Squads are free resources of trained youth across Alberta who will deliver personalized, one-on-one assistance designed to help small businesses navigate new digital tools and optimize their use to reach potential customers in existing and new markets.

Small businesses will meet with these trained specialists, at no cost. The Squads will help the business complete an online assessment, and then introduce them to online training modules to build their digital knowledge and skills. This one-on-one Squad assistance includes support for basic website set-up, Google My Business profiles, 360º photos, creation, or enhancement of social media presence, and much more.

To be eligible to be a part of the Digital Economy Program, businesses must fit the following criteria:

  1. Home-based or commercial small businesses registered in Alberta, and
  2. Less than 50 employees (this includes self-employed business owners with no employees)

Non-profits, charitable trusts, and franchises are not considered eligible businesses under this program.

There is no cost to eligible businesses to take part in the program. However, there is a requirement for participating businesses to commit time to the program. The amount of time you will be required to commit to this program is dependent on what services you are utilizing. Your active involvement is essential for your success.

Apply for the program that you feel best fits your needs. Once you are approved for the program, you will complete a digital assessment with the squad member to help determine which program may best suit your needs. After that, the program goes into full swing to support you.

Business Link, an Alberta-based non-profit that helps entrepreneurs navigate the steps toward starting, running and growing their own businesses.

Business Link is administering the grants and supporting the program delivery. Specifically for the Digital Service Squad activations across the province, Business Link will be working in collaboration with local business support agencies (for example, municipalities, Chambers, or non-profits) to help deliver the on-the-ground Squad support.

Business Link’s team of experts provide personalized support for small business owners and entrepreneurs starting or growing their business. They provide one-on-one coaching and advice, market research, access to experts, training, education sessions, and specialized support for Indigenous and immigrant entrepreneurs. Business Link is passionate about providing support services that will build business success in Alberta.

Timelines

Applications will open in August 2021 and will remain open until March 2023.

The program launches in August 2021.

The program will end on March 31, 2023.

Once your application has been received, the team will assess eligibility and a squad member will contact you shortly afterwards. For ShopHERE Program, you will be notified within 3 business days. For the DSS squads, the timelines will vary from one grant applicant to another.

Once your business is selected, you will be assigned to a squad member. You can identify suitable times to work with the assigned quad member, who will also help with the digital assessment process to determine specific needs and next steps in the process.

Time to complete the program will be dependent on several factors unique to your situation.

Program Questions for Small Business Owners

Yes, eligible Alberta-based businesses can apply for either or both programs in no particular order.

You need a business number because it’s one of the eligibility requirements. For small businesses located in Indigenous communities – please reach out to the DSS Program Manager for more information on business registration requirements.

Yes, we will consider applications on a case-by-case basis.

If you don’t have a business number, you are not eligible to apply for this program. Please contact Business Link directly to see how we can help you.

The structure of your business (Incorporated, LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, etc.) is not an eligibility factor. As long as you meet the 0-49 employees and have a business number you are eligible to apply. Please note that non-profits, charitable trusts, and franchises are not eligible under this program.

Great! We want to support your growth. You are only required to be 49 employees, or less, at time of application

Yes, however, the program is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is no guarantee there will be space available in the future if the program runs out of funding. You can also contact Business Link directly for support.

Yes. The ShopHERE program is designed to deliver an e-commerce website for your business.

Your business may not be approved if you are missing requirements, or it doesn’t fit the eligibility requirements.

You may re-apply for the program, once you meet the eligibility criteria.

The program is designed to support your digital needs, a digital assessment will be conducted at the beginning of the program. Anything that falls outside the scope of the program should be forwarded to 1-800-272-9675 (Business Link) Askus@businesslink.ca

A digital assessment is an audit of where your business is currently at for e-commerce and other digital business opportunities. We will use this assessment to determine how best to support you.

The Digital Economy Program is available to eligible businesses on a first come first serve basis, for as long as funding is still available.

The recommendation is up to 12 hours per business for DSS services.

We expect participating businesses to work with their assigned squad member to complete the program. After that, it’s important you have a plan in place to continue the development. Contact Business Link directly to discuss other services and support that may be available.

The Digital Service Squad will work directly with you to determine how best to support your success to kickstart the digital activity. You can book the time that works for you and in fact it is advisable to book time with your assigned squad member over a period of 8-12 weeks to allow you time to build on the initiative.

Ongoing Program Questions

Once you complete the program, and you still need support, please connect with Business Link directly and we will support you with your ongoing needs.

If you need technical support, your Squad can assist you while you are in the program. There will be a number of webinars, educational workshops, masterminds available, and there are Business Support Officers available within Business Link. You may also hire your own tech support or go through the e-commerce providers listed on the Business Link Support Local AB Directory or DMS Vendor Directory.

If there is no Digital Service Squad in your area, there is a central Business Link Digital Service Squad available. If you are an eligible business, you will have access to Business Link’s Digital Service Squad.

Yes. The ShopHERE program is designed to deliver an e-commerce website for your business.

The Digital Economy Program is free for eligible businesses to access, once approved. There is no cost to participate.

The amount of time you will be required to commit to this program is dependent on what services you are utilizing. Your active involvement is essential for your success and the support provided to your business. On an average, it takes 2-6 weeks for the ShopHERE squads to set up an eCommerce website and about 12 hours of free Digital Service Squad support.

Once the program is finished, there are several Business Link services available to support your ongoing growth and success. Visit the Business Link website for more information or contact 1-800-272-9675 (Business Link) Askus@businesslink.ca

Questions and Concerns

Absolutely, you will get an opportunity to provide formal feedback via a survey at the end of your support service. We encourage you to also give ongoing feedback to the Program Manager.

If there are any challenges or issues during the program, we encourage you to connect with your Program Manager.

If you would like to learn more about the Digital Economy Program or Business Link, contact our Business Link team.

If you are interested in learning more about Business Link and the other services, contact 1-800-272-9675 (Business Link) Askus@businesslink.ca

Questions

If you have any questions directly related to the program, or want to learn more about the application process, please contact us: AskUs@businesslink.ca

About TABIA

The Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) is a non-profit umbrella organization working with the 84 Business Improvement Areas within the City of Toronto, who in turn represent more than 70,000 business and property owners. www.toronto-bia.com

About Digital Main Street

Digital Main Street is a program that helps main street businesses achieve digital transformation. The program is built around an online learning platform, structured training programs, and our Digital Service Squad, a team of street-level team members who help main street businesses grow and manage their operations through technology.   

Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association on Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages. 

Business Link

We want to acknowledge that in the province of Alberta we are situated on the traditional territories of Treaties 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10, ancestral homeland of diverse First Nations groups, Métis and Indigenous people whose ancestors have walked this land since time immemorial and whose histories, languages and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community. We pay respects to the Indigenous people of this land, past, present and future, while recognizing their cultural heritage, beliefs, and relationship to the land on which we reside.

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