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Ontario invests $10M in grants for small businesses to build digital presence


July 20, 2021
By Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade

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Ontario is investing $10 million towards the Digital Main Street program for 2021-22 to help over 13,000 small businesses expand their digital presence and market their services online.

As businesses enter Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen, the renewed program will provide small businesses with $2,500 grants, technical training, and digital resources to help them reach more customers in person and online, in an effort to help position them for a stronger recovery.

“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities,” said Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “Our government is committed to being there for them as they reopen. This additional support will give these businesses the digital boost they need to raise their profile and rebuild better than ever.”

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Small businesses across Ontario with a brick-and-mortar location and one to 50 employees can apply for $2,500 Digital Transformation Grants, which they can use to purchase new technology and digital services.

They can apply for Digital Transformation Grants on the Digital Main Street portal.

With this additional funding, Digital Main Street will continue to support diverse small business owners throughout the province. To date, the program has provided over 20,000 businesses with support for their digital expansions, while generating jobs for more than 1,600 students and recent graduates.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Through Digital Main Street, we’re giving business owners and operators the tools they need to strengthen their online presence, enhance technical skills and help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to Digital Main Street, the government is working to gather information on how to best continue supporting small businesses through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ontario-based accounting software company FreshBooks. The MOU will help small businesses and entrepreneurs by using its data to help identify weaknesses and gaps that government programs can address to help more small businesses recover and grow. The extensive FreshBooks database provides information across a variety of sectors and regions in Ontario.

“We’re excited to provide this valuable line of sight for Ontario’s policymakers into what’s happening in the small business sector,” said Paul Cowan, Chief Marketing Officer, FreshBooks. “Access to timely, quality data makes all the difference when it comes to making good decisions both in government and in business. We’re glad to share our lens and insights and play an important part in this next phase of small business recovery

Beyond the grants, Digital Main Street – a partnership between the Ontario and federal governments – equips businesses with ShopHere support for opening online stores and access to Digital Service Squads offering one-on-one help.

As of March 2021, over 10,000 independent businesses and artists have already received support to create online stores through ShopHere, with 42 per cent outside the GTA and more than 370 in Northern Ontario. About 56 per cent of these businesses are operated by women entrepreneurs. In addition, 54 per cent of the 608 students and recent graduates hired by ShopHere are women, with 75 per cent self-identifying as ethnic minorities.