2023 was yet another successful year for the program and team at Digital Main Street – a program by TABIA. This year, we officially surpassed a noteworthy milestone of supporting over 100,000 Canadian small businesses to date with their digital transformation. This number is more than a statistic; it reflects the dedicated efforts of our team and partners, working tirelessly to fortify small businesses with the knowledge, and tools they need to succeed in the digital world.
Moreover, through expanding our program offerings and program delivery teams, this year witnessed the creation of over 500 new jobs across Canada, a tangible result of our commitment to fostering economic growth and providing opportunities for employment and prosperity across the country.
Looking forward, in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape, two constants remain: a growing number of small businesses continue to turn to digital adoption and e-commerce tools as an essential operational pivot, and Digital Main Street remains steadfast in its core philosophy — to create resilient small businesses and entrepreneurs through digital transformation.
As we celebrate another year, we recognize that our mission to help small businesses is a collaborative journey, shaped by the collective dedication of our team and partners. Before stepping into 2024, we wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on another successful year and thank everyone who has been a part of this year's journey.
Partnerships Make It All Possible
The commitment we receive from our partners makes everything we do possible, and we are endlessly thankful for them. These partnerships not only fortify our organization but also contribute to our strength and ability to fulfill our mission.
The City of Toronto continues to support us and has been a part of Digital Main Street since inception, establishing the infrastructure of the program, and we have since successfully expanded our reach.
In 2023, our collaboration with key government partners continued to contribute to our growth and success. We were fortunate to work alongside the Federal Government, particularly the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) department, and the Ontario Government through the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Their invaluable support has been instrumental in allowing us to sustain and enhance our programs, thereby continuing our mission to support and empower businesses.
Photo: John Kiru (Executive Director of TABIA, Founder of Digital Main Street), Rechie Valdez (the Honourable Federal Minister of Small Business), Darryl Julott (Managing Lead of Digital Main Street) Photo: John Kiru (Executive Director of TABIA, Founder of Digital Main Street), Nina Tangri (Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business), Darryl Julott (Managing Lead of Digital Main Street)
Our regional partners across the Country have enabled the expansion of Digital Main Street into Provinces outside of Ontario. A special thanks to the teams at Small Business BC, BusinessLink, the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance (SEDA), TechYukon, the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation, OBIAA, and the New Brunswick Association of CBDCs (representing Atlantic Canada).
Our local delivery partners across the Country have become a part of the fabric of Digital Main Street. This includes Municipalities, Small Business Enterprise Centers, Community Future’s offices, Regional Innovation Centers, BIAs, Chambers of Commerce, and more. Our corporate partners – Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Square, Canada Post, eBay and Intuit – continue to fuel our programs with access to industry-leading tools and enable us to help small businesses achieve digital transformation through content, events, and training for our program delivery teams.
Along with these organizations, we have informally collaborated with dozens of organizations across the country, so thank you to everyone who played a role in this year’s success!
“The success of Digital Main Street is a testament to the dedication and collaboration of everyone involved. As we reflect on this year of growth and digital transformation, our gratitude extends to our government partners, regional partners, and the countless organizations and people that have supported us and supported small businesses. Thank you for being integral to our mission—here's to another year of resilience, innovation, and success in 2024 and beyond.”
– John Kiru, Executive Director of TABIA, Founder of Digital Main Street
The Path to Digital Adoption is Paved with Programs
Our programs act as the cornerstone of our mission to create more resilient small business owners. Through our programs, we aim to provide businesses with an option to explore adopting new technologies and tools in a way that does not create further financial or staffing issues, and pairs them directly with a human resource for 1-1 consulting and capacity building.
Digital Transformation Grants and the Digital Service Squads
This year we celebrate 5 years of the Digital Transformation Grants and the expanded Digital Service Squads with our partners at the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA).
Our Digital Service Squads now operate in 229 municipalities across Ontario and have supported tens of thousands of small businesses with digital advice and best practices.
In the last 5 years, we have enabled the delivery of over 15,000 Digital Transformation Grants to brick-and-mortar small businesses across Ontario.
Photo: Toronto Digital Service Squad – Summer 2023
These are small businesses like Kenon Builders, an indigenous-owned and operated contracting business in Kenora Ontario, who used the Digital Transformation Grant to establish their online presence with a website and improve their social media practices.
“It’s so helpful to have something available like that to businesses in this part of Ontario. Sometimes knowing that you have a little bit of extra help or support, or resources is just the impetus that you need to move forward with something.”
– Ashley Massey, a project manager at Kenon Builders located in Kenora. (Read their success story here.)
E-Commerce Programs: ShopHERE powered by Google and the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP)
E-commerce continues to be a driving force in our economy, and more and more small businesses are recognizing the need to adopt e-commerce tools to keep up with the modern landscape.
Through the ShopHERE powered by Google program, our teams have worked with thousands of businesses this year. Providing this 1-1 support model for helping launch online stores empowers entrepreneurs like, Jasneet Ahuja, the owner of Blisscor Home Décor, a woman-owned sustainable business based out of Brampton. Through the program, Ahujga was able to launch her brand-new online store for her growing business.
“The ShopHERE powered by Google program proved to be incredibly valuable… Venturing into the world of e-commerce was a significant learning experience for me, and I'm grateful for the program's support in offering valuable guidance throughout this journey.”
– Jasneet Ahuja, the owner of Blisscor Home Décor located in Brampton. (Read their success story here.)
Our e-commerce offerings have expanded across the country through the Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP) which offers direct support from an e-commerce advisor along with a $2,400 to help with adopting e-commerce tools. Through CDAP we have worked with businesses like Choux Lab, who relied on the program and funding to build a new website that enabled them to accommodate online orders, for pickup and delivery.
“The CDAP Grant helped us go digital. As a small business, it really helps having access to the micro grant and other support resources. It also helps you learn more about the digital world and how it's a totally separate opportunity (than just brick and mortar) for you to grow your business. We expect to have an even bigger online presence in the next 5 years and increase our sales more than 100% via online orders.”
– Manny Sehgal, co-owner of Choux Lab located in Toronto, Ontario. (Read their success story here.)
Photo: Choux Lab Owners, Hana and Manny
The Digital Economy Program
In partnership with Business Link, and with funding provided by the Government of Alberta and Prairies Economic Development Canada, we continue to deliver the Digital Economy Program (DEP) to small and medium-sized businesses across Alberta. Adopting a similar model, through Digital Service Squads, the DEP aims to help small businesses adopt digital technologies to grow and stay competitive. This year, the DEP proudly supported thousands of new businesses across 230 different municipalities in Alberta.
One of the businesses that worked with the DEP was Travelling Timbers, a small business in Slave Lake, Alberta, a few hours outside of Edmonton. Travelling Timbers sought help from the DEP and their local Digital Service Squad because they knew they had room for improvement when it came to their online presence and their ability to be found by new customers. By working with a dedicated squad member, they were able to improve key content on their website, set up a Google Business Profile, and improve their social media strategy to help get found.
“We have seen a marked uptick in the online traffic to our website, and a strong increase in our social media following, as well as an increase in website visitors through our social media accounts. If you want to increase your online footprint, be seen online, and grow your business, then the DEP is for you. The tools and resources that they provide will help new, and established companies succeed in the digital world.”
– Jared Franklin, one of the founders behind Travelling Timbers (Read their success story here.)
The R.A.I.S.E Program
Concluding the inaugural RAISE program in 2023, we were able to support and provide grants to over 400 businesses, representing >$4,000,000 and countless hours of training and mentorship.
The program provided racialized entrepreneurs access to funding, mentorship and coaching and was a result of a collaboration between TABIA, OBIAA and the Ministry of Citizenship and Multiculturalism (MCM) in Ontario.
Looking to 2024 and beyond
This tremendous year would not have been possible without the partners, squad members, e-commerce coordinators and advisors, and everyone else who makes it all possible. We want to thank you for all your hard work, and for your dedication to Digital Main Street, and helping small businesses.
We would be remised not to mention the Digital Main Street operational team. Thank you for being an integral part of Digital Main Street's success in 2023—we eagerly anticipate achieving even greater heights together in the coming year.
Photo: Digital Main Street's operational team
In a fast-paced, evolving landscape, the question becomes – what’s next? Trending industry topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence inspire us to explore how Digital Main Street can continue to create new opportunities, learnings, resources and best practices to support small businesses in these emerging areas. One of the ways we accomplished this in 2023 was through our new “Empowering your business to be cyber resilient” Course, developed in partnership with Mastercard, which aims to arm businesses with the knowledge they need to be protected online and ensure their customers are as well. As we move into 2024, we will continue to answer this question and remain a go-to resource for small business owners with the education and guidance they need to succeed.
Our role in collaborating and connecting the small business community across the country remained strong this year and will continue to guide us in 2024 and beyond. Looking ahead to the new year, we are excited about the possibilities it brings and remain dedicated to our vision of creating and supporting a thriving digital ecosystem for small businesses and entrepreneurs.