READER NOTE: Since November 2020, we have been following the journeys of several Ontario main street businesses as they evolve their digital presence with the Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) that each received through the Digital Main Street (DMS) program.
DMS – currently funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade – provides small businesses across the province with training, grants and resources to adopt digital tools and technologies that will build business resiliency.
In this final installment of a three-part series, we catch up with Yellow Gazebo Natural Health Care on Toronto’s St. Claire Avenue West, in mid-March.
“Six or even three months ago, I was afraid of where we could be right now, but I am very happy with where we are,” said Richard Lobbenberg, owner and clinic director of Yellow Gazebo Natural Health Care.
While he acknowledges that he continues to run the clinic with “some degree of fear” given there are many factors to worry about, “I continue to do the things I know work and ensure the services we provide are top notch in all respects.”
By “those things that work,” Richard was referring to his team’s efforts over the past year to blend the best of all worlds between in-person care, online resources and remote patient counselling.
This shift was made possible with two consecutive Digital Transformation Grants and the coaching and support from Digital Main Street.
Yellow Gazebo, deemed essential as a regulated healthcare provider, has continued throughout the pandemic to remain open and deliver a range of health services, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy and physiotherapy.
But not everyone is comfortable with in-person visits during a pandemic. Since last April, Richard and his team have taken advantage of their DMS resources to shift counselling sessions and naturopathic therapy online. An e-commerce storefront continues to add more products to support therapy and personal care at home. This has also served to boost in-clinic product sales.
A big part of the clinic’s digital strategy throughout the pandemic has also been to make more effective use of social media and online advertising.
“DMS reduced my fear of advertising through social media and my worries about how much money to spend on advertising,” Richard said.
As he reported when we last spoke in January, Richard said the growth of the online side of the business continues to offset any drop in in-person visits.
“Our staff are doing a great job helping people online. I believe the online counselling especially provides a needed service because people are stressed and tearing their hair out and being able to talk to a counsellor online is really helpful. We care for people and want to help them.”
Patients tell of how they appreciate having online channels that make it easy to keep updated with what is going on at the clinic and what steps staff continue to take to ensure everyone’s safety.
“This helps people to feel a part of our community and gives them a sense of confidence in the treatment they are getting,” Richard said.
Yellow Gazebo will continue to work on refining its website and its engagement with its community through social media and online advertising. Richard doesn’t hesitate to say that none of this could have been achieved without DMS.
“DMS has definitely been invaluable in building our confidence and encouraging us to continue growing the online aspect of how we operate,” he said. “What started out as a Band-Aid to help mitigate losses in our in-clinic services, I see now as an opportunity to help a larger number of people, because they don’t need to be in our immediate community.”
Richard’s story is just one example of how main street small businesses across Ontario have taken advantage of the Digital Main Street Ontario Initiative.
For more information, go to www.digitalmainstreet.ca
The Digital Main Street program has been further extended through funding from FedDev Ontario and the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The new round of funding includes $42.5 million from the Government of Canada’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, a national recovery initiative delivered by Canada’s regional development agencies. With $7.45 million from Ontario, this combined federal and provincial project will strengthen Ontario’s economic capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration, and will promote the development of a strong and diversified Ontario economy. For more information, please visit digitalmainstreet.ca/ontariogrants