Lisa Dickie will never look at a website the same thanks to an Ontario government program designed to open “Main Street” Ontario for business, digitally speaking.
The owner of Dickie’s Cooking School (for ages 4 to 100+) in Toronto’s food-trendy Danforth district now feels as evangelical about digital training as she does about teaching people how to cook.
She has just finished a comprehensive online course from Digital Main Street, a partner program funded by the province and delivered by the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA).
A website is like a living thing, she now says. Treat it right with tender loving care and fresh content and it will be like a silent partner bringing in business. “I think people often see their website as their cover letter, and once it’s up they sort of let it roll, apart from occasional updating,” she says. “My content now changes every day because I am constantly adding new classes and I have a blog.”
Digital Main Street provides grants combined with digital transformation training to help traditional main street businesses adapt and thrive in the new economy. It originates from a program started by the Toronto BIA Association (TABIA) and the City of Toronto that was so successful it went province-wide.
There are not many government grants out there for small non-tech businesses. Help from Digital Main Street was exactly what Ms. Dickie needed, especially training on how to make a website haul in new business instead of being one of the many canned versions cluttering the internet.
“It was obvious to me I really needed to fix the website. That was my most immediate need because it would have the most significant impact on sales.”
A big part of the Digital Main Street training is how to promote your site through SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Google My Business and tagging, and why you should post and use video often. Training also covered how to use Instagram, Facebook and a weekly blog to generate extra traffic.
“As a new small business owner, I found the training the most valuable part of Digital Main Street because it made me think about what I’m doing, what’s working and what’s not – and that was invaluable.”
The reborn Dickie Cooking School website (https://dickiescookingschool.com/) went live last December. It’s a feast for the eyes and palate with lots of photos, recipes and cooking tips, witty copy, workshops, cooking camps for kids and birthday and VIP parties. You can even rent the place. The website is now boosting business in every possible way . The new site loads faster. Pages are linked better, and the website is more fluid and easier to navigate. The photos look professionally cropped and sized. Most importantly, sales are up and business is growing. Ms. Dickie attributes it all to the new website and a business owner much more knowledgeable about online marketing.
“The money is the carrot that forces the training that makes the carrot a much better carrot. Without the training, I probably would have wasted the money. I can judge now, focus now.”
What’s next for Dickie’s Cooking School? Increasing visibility with how-to videos is at the top of the Dickie to-do list. “Video content is now essential, and cooking applies well there.”
As for the reason Dickie’s Cooking School was set up in 2017 — teaching people how to cook — Ms. Dickie, a former teacher, has a strong resolve In an age of fast foods, Uber Eats and pre-prepared meals, people are putting convenience and speed ahead of healthy, nutritious and fresh meals. It’s a trend that will only accelerate now that home economics is kicked out of school curricula, she says.
“I really think there seems to be a huge disconnect between health and knowing how to cook. You’ve got a fast-growing population of people that don’t know how to feed themselves.”
Maybe that’s the reason why Ms. Dickie found the training so important. Just like health and cooking, there’s a connection between online growth and knowing what you’re doing in the digital world. And that’s always a recipe for success!