ShopHERE program successfully supporting Calgary businesses

The City of Calgary joined the ShopHERE powered by Google program last September getting small businesses and artists set up with ecommerce websites. Since then, this program has supported the employment of 24 Calgary university students to set up these sites and supported 341 businesses.

One Calgary entrepreneur says the program has helped her establish her home art business. The idea of having a website to market and sell her paintings seemed like an easy and simple step for artist Addie Ruhl. But she says she didn’t know how to move ahead.

“If you’re like me and the tech side is a stumbling block in building your business this was just an absolutely wonderful experience to get me over that hump and launch me in the 21st century and get me where I couldn’t get myself, as silly as that sounds.”

Through our program, Ruhl’s new online shop enabled her to sell 24 pieces of her art to buyers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and many here in Alberta.

“Before I opened up my shop, I didn’t really have a business per se. I was painting for friends and family and I wasn’t out there actively selling. There was a big stumbling block; people would ask for my website and I didn’t have one. Those canvasses start to pile up and you can only keep so many… being able to put my product out there for other people to see was just so important.”

Ruhl says she appreciates The City’s support for her business, especially during challenging economic times.

“Just knowing you’ve got someone in your corner and the city you live in cares about small businesses in that way and it’s helping people from artists to so many small businesses getting their products and ideas out there - it feels amazing and it feels like we’re living in the right spot.”

Supporting small businesses through the ShopHERE powered by Google program has helped Calgary business owners make the shift to market and do business online. The program’s goal is to get 50,000 deserving companies Canada-wide online so they can reach a wider audience for their products and bring in new revenue. They hire university students to build websites for registered small businesses, including home-based companies, artists, service providers like hair salons and auto shops, and more. In 2021, The City received funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada to move forward with Phase 2 of the program.

“We’ve learned over 2020 and into 2021 that it’s not business as usual,” says Sonya Sharp, Leader, Business and Local Economy at The City of Calgary. “The City went over and beyond to search out this opportunity, looking at different provinces that tried this out, and we found an opportunity in the middle of 2020 and thought business are going to have to shift their models, they’re going to have to pivot, some are already looking for an ecommerce opportunity so how can we support them by getting on this platform. We bounced this idea off our business community and they were all excited about it, so we went ahead and proceeded with some of our own funding and 2021 federal funding.”

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’re hearing from a lot of entrepreneurs who were worried about paying for overhead, wanted to try out something for themselves. It was a great opportunity to try it out via ecommerce first and it’s a great time to try something and if it’s going to succeed and if they have an opportunity to try it out through brick and mortar they will. Our climate is changing, many of us have had to shop through curbside pickup and online so ecommerce and the ShopHERE program really supported that.”