Ada Slivinski: BC’s Launch Online Grant needs some tweaking. Specifically, it needs to be retroactive.
This week the provincial government launched a new grant to help product-based businesses launch or improve their online store. The Launch Online grant of up to $7,500 covers up to 75 per cent of eligible expenses: product photography; website creation; Facebook ads; training staff to execute on digital marketing – as long as it’s done by a BC-based company.
To apply, business owners need to fill in a 33-part questionnaire online, provide their business numbers and last year’s revenue, as well as a short summary of how they plan to use the grant. The criteria says all the work must be completed within 12 weeks of receiving confirmation of eligibility.
This means that businesses who paid to upgrade their site soon after lockdowns hit are ineligible, unless their shop has three or fewer of the following capabilities: customer registration and information security features; shopping cart and order management capabilities; payment processing options including taxes and shipping costs; product catalogue search and inventory status; and website analytics and reporting capabilities.
In short, businesses who pivoted quickly and were ahead of the curve aren’t eligible for financial support. To be more equitable, the grant should be retroactive.
If businesses are only thinking about online sales and marketing now, they’re starting so far behind. The government shouldn’t be excluding companies who had the foresight to pivot earlier; they’ve already shown they’re willing to invest in new trends and opportunities.
There’s another effect. Digital agencies – most busier than ever as businesses look for ways to enhance their online presence – are now dealing with a flood of requests from new clients, all looking to have their site up and running in the next three months. It’s a tight timeline at any time, but with everyone is juggling a flood of new business, it feels especially overwhelming.
A full e-commerce website with all five required capabilities at the end of the 12 weeks can cost upwards of $20,000. It usually takes at least six months to build. $7,500 certainly helps, but it’s not going to make up for months of lost revenue.
It’s great that there’s some support and funding available to help businesses pivot – but those who already paid out of pocket should not be punished for being proactive.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at email@example.com