E-commerce support made to order: mentors look to help Kingston SMEs boost online presence

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Kingston’s main economic development agency is rolling out a new program that offers free support for local businesses looking to shore up their online presence.

Kingston Economic Development is partnering with the Digital Main Street Squad, a federally and provincially funded program that provides services to small businesses ranging from social media advice to e-commerce guidance. 

The initiative is part of Digital Main Street, a partnership between the federal government and the province that helps SMEs adopt new technology and bolster their online offerings.

Kingston EcDev has been working with Digital Main Street since 2019. Since then, the program has supported more than 400 Kingston businesses.

The Digital Street Squad is now offering free in-depth consultations and support, including digital literacy assessments, website creation and updating, social media advertising advice, technology guidance and miscellaneous digital transformation support.

The squad is made up of technology students and recent graduates who provide one-on-one guidance and consultation to participating businesses.

Kingston EcDev and Digital Main Street have supported hundreds of local businesses in the transition to digital work, providing more than $450,000 in grants. Last year, 100 Kingston businesses received grants worth a total of $250,000.

Kingston EcDev officials say it’s more necessary than ever for SMEs to step up their e-commerce and social media games.

One-on-one consultations

“Over the next 12 weeks, we're ready to support hundreds of Kingston businesses improve their online presence and sales,” said Chris Morris, the agency’s digital business adviser.

Many of the services are available for free to any Kingston-based business. They include one-on-one consultations with a digital adviser on topics such as search engine optimization, content creation and digital marketing strategy. 

Morris said the digital advisers “have vast experience supporting local businesses with digital marketing challenges.”

Other free digital marketing tools include digital starter kits for small businesses and SEO guidebooks as well as the Recovery Activation Program, an online program offering seminars, workshops and mentorships to help businesses upgrade their digital presence.