BRC Receives Provincial Grant to Help Main Street Businesses
By: Yvonne Van De Wiele-Cooper
“Main Street businesses are the backbone of our community.” Mae Legg, Senior Business Consultant with the Brantford-Brant Business Resource Enterprise Centre (BRC) also says, small business owners “know the importance of remaining competitive.”
But not everyone is a digital whiz. Assistance is often required when it comes to web design, graphics, content, SEO, social media, or how to use these tools to build a business and customer awareness.
That’s where the Digital Main Street Professional Service Squad can help! Thanks to a recent $10,000 provincial grant in partnership with the Ontario BIA, a squad of experts will be able to work with small businesses within the downtown BIA, to improve their online capabilities.
“Often, they have a website that needs improvement, but the big one is social media and helping people get their businesses out to their target market clientele whether that be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter,” said Legg. Squad members can help with graphic design, software programs, content writing or E-commerce.
It all starts with a digital assessment from a BRC staff member, highlighting strong points and areas for improvement. “Then the digital squad of experts will contact you and get you on course for your business’ digital needs,” says Legg.
When it comes to social media marketing she stresses, it’s not about reaching a mass audience. “You don’t want to try and reach everyone, you want to try and reach the people who are going to buy from you, your target market and that’s very important for business owners to learn,” she said.
The initial evaluation, advice and help with the first steps to get on the right track, costs nothing. There would however be a cost to any additional extensive services such as, building a whole new website or an E-commerce site.
Every expert on the squad offers a specific business service of their own and could be hired by the business owner to take things further if they wish. The BRC can provide a list of local experts that can be called on locally, depending on what the needs are as well.
Five local digital squad experts have gone through training through the Ontario BIA in a webinar format and the BRC has been reaching out to businesses letting them know of this fantastic free opportunity. Response has been strong already.
The BRC began as a self-help centre in the late eighties, before becoming a part of the province’s small business enterprise centres by about 2001.
The organization is funded by the Ontario government and the City of Brantford. They help people build business and financial plans through workshop training for start-up companies and offer other workshops such as, business planning, financial forecasting marketing, sales and one on one consultations.
A representative from the Canada Revenue Agency holds a bookkeeping workshop every other month as well, which is very well received throughout the community. Sales, market research, business planning and financial forecasting workshops are held monthly.
The BRC also offers the Starter Company Plus grant program, which distributes grants for those starting, expanding or buying a business. In order to be eligible for the grant, prospective business owners need to complete five BRC workshops, complete a business plan, a financial plan and then make a presentation to a local grant committee.
Some of the BRC’s success stories include: Joycult (which makes wheels for finger boards -like a skateboard for your fingers), Cherry Home Inspections, Our Kitchen Brantford (a community kitchen), Bathtub Bakery (which creates and sells bakery themed bath soaps), and Alt Boutique.
The BRC helps with business licensing, regulatory issues, creating payroll accounts and businesses often seek additional assistance from the BRC to help with hiring, navigating the employment standards act, WSIB and more. There is also a mentorship referral program, where businesses are given access to professionals like accountants and lawyers.
In early 2020, the BRC will be taking applications for Summer Company, which offers grants, training and mentoring to students, between the ages of 15 and 29 who are returning to school to start their own business.
“We work with businesses to assist in their success in our community through meeting their needs,” said Legg.
The Digital Main Street Service Squad program runs until April 30, 2020.
For more information, check out businessresourcecentre.ca