Building on the successful launch of the ShopHERE powered by Google program, Digital Main Street, in partnership with FedDev Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Invest Ottawa, Communitech and NORCAT is proud to announce its Future Proof Program.

COVID-19 forced businesses across Ontario to close their doors this spring and many are looking for new and creative ways to attract business. With Future Proof, Digital Main Street aims to expand their support and create lasting change for small businesses across Ontario through three initiatives called Transformation Teams, the Digital Main Street Lab and the Community Collaboration Project.

Individual business evolution: Transformation Teams will offer transformation plans to small businesses through working with an interdisciplinary team of marketing professionals, web designers and creators. These Transformation plans will help to create new businesses models, develop and implement digital marketing strategies; maximize digital tools and more.

In a process lasting up to six weeks, each business will work with a team of highly trained students and recent graduates that will include a web designer, digital marketer, graphic designer, UX/UI designer and copywriter. This team will offer tailor made plans for deep digital transformation and give each business owner the tools to maintain their upgraded online presence. The Transformation Teams program will provide free and direct support to businesses, while providing on the job training to the teams of students and recent graduates. Applications are now open.

Street by street renewal: The Digital Main Street Lab is focused on building collaborations between technology companies and communities to pilot innovations that encourage transformational change along main street for businesses. Projects that offer new ways for customers to access main street businesses are of interest. Successful projects will be eligible to receive up to $25,000 in support for implementation. Applications for the Digital Main Street Lab will be live until October 31, 2020.

Regional focus: The Community Collaboration Project will connect regional innovation centres and other community-based organizations to identify common issues facing small and medium main street businesses and focus on developing workable solutions to these issues for implementation.

In order to ensure that all Ontario communities have equal access to support, the Community Collaboration Project will be implemented by Regional Innovation Centres across the province. Haltech, iiON, Innovate Niagara, Innovation Factory, Innovation Guelph, Launch Lab, MaRs, NWOIC, RIC Centre, Spark Centre, SSMIC, TechAlliance, VentureLAB, and WEtech in addition to NORCAT, Communitech and Invest Ottawa are all proud partners in the execution Digital Main Street Future Proof programs.

Future Proof compliments two recently announced programs ShopHERE and Ontario Grants:

• ShopHERE: a program that provides independent small businesses and artists with a quick, easy and no-cost way to get selling online right away. More info here.
• Ontario Grants: providing main street businesses with $2,500 Digital Transformation Grants, and municipalities / local communities with grants to implement a Digital Service Squad. More info here.

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