WEtech Alliance Launches Support Main Street Businesses


WEtech Alliance And Partners Launch Support Main Street Businesses

Pilot projects to focus on generating revenue online, mental health and tourism innovation

WEtech Alliance along with community partners launched in mid January 2021 three innovative pilot projects that will take a tangible and local approach to solving main street and small businesses biggest challenges amid COVID-19.

Through the Ignition program, supported by Libro Credit Union, WEtech Alliance connected with over one hundred (100) small and medium-sized main street businesses across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent, to better understand the most pressing challenges facing local main streets.

“Getting main street businesses and entrepreneurs the support they need to get through this pandemic is critical to the growth of prosperity in Windsor-Essex and Chatham Kent.The Ignition program took a boots on the ground approach and showed up to speak with local business owners, understanding the challenges they are facing, so that we could build the solutions that would impact them the most. We know these solutions are going to make a big difference in people’s lives, and we are excited to see them in action.” –  Lori Atkinson, Regional Manager at Libro Credit Union

Following numerous conversations with business owners, community members and organizations from both main street and the innovation community, the Ignition program identified the following key challenges . . .

  1. Revenue loss and barriers to online selling
  2. Mental health impacts of COVID-19 on entrepreneurs
  3. Enhanced impact on tourism and hospitality-based businesses

Through the Community Collaboration Program, part of the Digital Main Street Future Proof Program and supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), the Government of Ontario, NORCAT, Communitech, and Invest Ottawa, WEtech Alliance engaged with local entrepreneurs and community partners to develop, implement and financially support tangible solutions to the three key challenges highlighted through the Ignition program.

WEtech Alliance supports small businesses across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent though the following three solutions and pilot projects . . .

  1. Shop My Town Project: Leveraging Windsor-based Splice Digital’s shopmytown innovative e-commerce platform, this project aims to connect local vendors with new and existing customers who like to shop local. The project will run in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent, beginning on January 1, 2021 and run through to March 31, 2021. During the duration of the project, platform fees will be reduced to 3% (from 12%). In addition, business owners will have complimentary access to dedicated Customer Success Teams, in partnership with Communitech’s Future Proof Transformation Teams, who can help business owners get online and sell within one business day.
  2. Entrepreneurs on the Front Lines Project: Leveraging the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor-Essex County’s programming and expertise, this project aims to provide tailored and on-demand support, programming and resources to business owners, entrepreneurs, and their staff with the goal of ensuring well-being is a priority. The project will run in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent, beginning on January 1, 2021 and run through to March 31st, 2021.
  3. Tourism + Tech: Sparking Tourism 4.0 Project: Leveraging the Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab’s (OTIL) Spark Program, this project aims to connect tourism and hospitality-based businesses and entrepreneurs with technology experts and providers to create and develop new and/or enhanced tourism opportunities, ideas, experiences and partnerships to further support the future proofing of the tourism industry. The project will run in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent in conjunction with the OTIL’s Spark Program.

“The Digital Main Street Community Collaboration Project allowed us the opportunity to solve emerging local main street problems in real time while colliding them with the local innovation community,” adds Yvonne Pilon, President and CEO at WEtech Alliance. “Over the next three months, business owners, entrepreneurs, BIAs, small business enterprise centres, chambers of commerce and municipalities across Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent will have additional support to assist in the future proofing and wellbeing of our local business community.”

All solutions were evaluated on the strength of community and end-user collaborations, scalability to other businesses and regions and supporting economic viability of main street and broader ecosystem.

Business owners, main street businesses, BIAs, SBECs or municipalities interested in leveraging the following projects/solutions, can contact Noah Campbell for instructions on how to get started.

WEtech Alliance is one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Province of Ontario, serving the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent regions. They provide entrepreneurs with business services, training, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. WEtech Alliance has served as the catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex + Chatham-Kent regions since 2011.

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 of 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.

A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa, and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses to go digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.

Community Collaboration Projects connect regional innovation centres and community organizations in a series of engaging conversations on common issues facing small businesses to build workable solutions. The Digital Main Street Community Collaboration Project is made possible through financial support of the federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and the Government of Ontario.

Libro Credit Union is a full-service financial institution serving more than 106,000 member-Owners through a network of digital service and 36 physical locations. As a certified B Corporation, Libro invests 100 percent of profits into the people, businesses and communities across southwestern Ontario.

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