THE new Launch Online Grant program is designed to help over 1,500 eligible small- and medium-sized B.C. businesses adapt to changes in consumer behaviour and pivot to market their products online, the province announced on Wednesday.
The B.C. government is investing $12 million to help businesses launch or upgrade an online store that will provide the platform they need to increase their sales revenues, become more competitive and grow. Up to 25% of the program funds will be reserved for regional and Indigenous businesses.
“Businesses need access to the tools and supports that will help them adapt and pivot during this uniquely challenging time,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “This program will provide business owners with the ability to expand their online presence and create a customized e-commerce site that will give them the boost they need to keep moving forward.”
People have increased their reliance on online shopping with over $305 billion in e-commerce sales in Canada in 2019. E-commerce sales are projected to have doubled through 2020 and are expected to increase further in 2021.
These grants will provide business owners, including those in hard-hit sectors such as retail, tourism and restaurants, with up to $7,500 to build or improve their online store and promote BuyBC at a local, national and international level.
“We launched an online shop within 48 hours after the lockdown,” said David Nicholls, General Manager, Vancouver Island Brewing. “While we were happy to get it off the ground, we soon realized that the online store could not meet all of our needs and the uniqueness of shipping beer. We are excited by the possibility of receiving a grant from this program so we can enhance our website and share our locally crafted beers with customers across B.C.”
Grant recipients can use the funding for a variety of online-related expenses, including pictures, creating an online inventory system, advertising costs, subscription costs of an e-commerce platform and training staff to manage the website.
“Expanding our business online has been key to helping grow our sales in B.C. and beyond,” said Amy Hall, Founder, Goldilocks Wraps. “Goldilocks is built on the premise of zero waste. Through the online shop, I am able to connect with people, worldwide, who are looking for environmentally friendly products. Having an online store is now core to our business model and serves as a place where I can share my personal journey and experiences and connect with my customers.”
As part of the program, successful applicants must use one or more local B.C. service providers to complete their online store. Through this model, the grant funding can be reinvested in B.C.-based marketing and technology companies to generate revenues for local companies and help secure and grow jobs.
The Launch Online Grant program is part of B.C.’s $10-billion COVID-19 response, which includes StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan – a strategy that protects people’s health and livelihoods while supporting businesses and communities.
The program is administered by Alacrity Canada. Small- and medium-sized businesses are encouraged to apply online: www.launchonline.ca
* The Launch Online Grant program is based on a first come, first-served basis. The program will run until March 31, or until all funds are distributed.
* Eligibility criteria for businesses include having:
– a goods and services tax number and paying taxes in B.C.;
– generated sales of more than $30,000 in either 2019 or 2020;
– one to 149 employees (applications can be submitted by sole proprietors); and
– repeatable products, or in the case of artists and jewellers, individual items that have slight differences (e.g., paintings and rings).
* As part of the application, businesses are required to develop a grant proposal that indicates how they plan to use the funds.
* Based in Victoria, Alacrity is a non-profit organization that promotes technology entrepreneurship and facilitates regional investment.
For more information on the Launch Online Grant program, including the application process and eligibility, visit: www.launchonline.ca