An artist and designer, Jennifer Martin owns Niffers Clothing, a children’s clothing boutique in Bancroft, ON, where she showcases her own unique designs and other quality products for kids. When she received her first Digital Transformation Grant literally the day before Ontario first went into lockdown in April 2020, she had no idea that the resulting online store would save her business.

That grant could not have been timelier. The funds she received let her build the online presence and develop other tools she needed to connect with her customers virtually when it became impossible to do so physically. With a Shopify e-commerce store running on an iPad, Jennifer did more than merely survive lockdowns. Sales in 2020 were up five percent over 2019, an amazing result since her brick-and-mortar store was closed for more than a quarter of the year.

Her next move supercharged her evolution. She purchased a Shopify mPop device that combines the functionality of a retail till with a barcode scanner and a printer, an investment Jennifer says let her integrate her online store with her brick-and-mortar location. She can now accurately manage inventory no matter where the sale takes place. People see her new products online and come into the store to look and feel and buy. So far, sales in 2021 are already as high as all of last year, and the busy Christmas season has yet to kick in.

Social media advertising campaigns have brought her new customers from outside her small-town catchment area and opened her eyes to how a smart digital presence can help her expand her business. Bancroft is a seasonal cottage town, and Jennifer is keen to see how well her online store connects her with her summertime clientele after they return home from the cottage.

Jennifer will tell you she loves having a physical store where she can meet and interact with her customers. She brings the same high-touch approach to her online presence, showcasing – with permission, of course – pictures that customers send her of their kids and grandchildren wearing her creations. A self-confessed technophobe before starting on her digital journey, Jennifer says she never saw herself competing with the massive online brands, and still doesn’t. “They can never offer this kind of highly personalized service,” she says. “I can be what they can never be.

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