Helping Calgary’s small businesses succeed in the digital world

New free initiative is pairing members with post-secondary students to help them go digital

By Krista Sylvester | February 8, 2022 |5:00 am

The city is pairing local businesses with post-secondary students to help them make the most out of the digital economy during a free year-long program.

Photo: Calgary Citizen

A new Digital Service Squad program is aiming to inspire and enable small businesses in Calgary to embrace digital technology to be successful in the new economy. 

The program is being delivered through a partnership between Business Link and Digital Main Street and is funded by the Government of Alberta.

It’s designed to provide free support helping small businesses succeed in the online world, says Erin Chrusch, the city’s acting lead, Business and Local Economy.

“This is a great initiative that partners talented students who need experience with businesses who need help to increase their digital presence,” she says. 

The city’s Digital Service Squad members will work one-on-one with as many small business operators as possible to establish their online presence, improve their digital literacy, and connect them with ongoing support. 

The Digital Service Squad (DSS) consists of up to 15 Calgary post-secondary students, temporarily hired by the city and available at no cost to eligible small businesses. The goal is to help over 2,000 local businesses during the year-long free program. 

 It’s the perfect timing for this program 

The pandemic has changed the way many local businesses approach their customers, who are increasingly living, working, and shopping more online. It’s never been more important for local small businesses to have a strong digital presence.

“Many small businesses are aware of what they need to do, but they don’t generally have the time to be able to figure out in an efficient way what would be best for their specific business,” she says, adding the services are offered on a tailored approach. 

“Not everyone is going to need a fancy Instagram page, and their needs might be different.”

The free support can include digital transformation support, social media strategy, building a basic website, setting up Google My Business, setting up a Point-of-Sale (POS) solution, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), creating customer databases, and streamlining business processes.

“By having the squad members there to assist them, it will make that process a lot easier,”  Chrusch adds. 

All the gritty details 

Chrusch says the program was so successful in Ontario, the Alberta government wanted to bring it to the province. 

“We are excited for this opportunity not just for the small businesses, but for the students that are going to be assisting them as well,” she says, adding it’s a “win-win” situation. 

“It’s an opportunity to provide them with this meaningful experience supporting our small business community.”

The program is open to small businesses located in Calgary and registered in Alberta with zero to 49 employees (can include self-employed business owners with no employees).

Home-based or commercial businesses are also eligible. However, non-profits, charitable trusts, and franchises are not eligible under this program.

For local small business operators, it all starts with signing up. Interested small business operators are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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