On Feb 3, 2021, the BC government and Alacrity Canada announced the Launch Online grant, a provincial grant aimed at helping BC business owners better develop their ecommerce options to assist with the post-COVID economic recovery.
The BC government has pledged 12 million dollars for the program, which will go toward helping up to 1,500 small and medium-sized businesses create an online sales portal (or improve an existing one). The goal of the grant is to assist with BC’s economic recovery by helping local businesses reach BC consumers who shop primarily online, thus keeping more BC money in BC.
How Does it Work?
The grant is designed to cover expenses related to:
- Building an online shop (including product photography and copywriting)
- Improving existing ecommerce platforms (staff training and time spent on substantial enhancements)
- Digital customer acquisition (including SEO, keyword research, and Google ads management)
- Training employees to manage the online shopping platform
The government will fund up to 75 percent of eligible expenses for qualifying applicants, up to $7500 per business. Accepted applicants must be able to complete all activities related to building or developing their online shops within 12 weeks of receiving funding.
Who Qualifies for the Grant?
Since the grant is aimed at keeping BC consumer money in BC, it goes without saying that applicants should be based in the province. Specifically, you should meet all of the following eligibility requirements:
- The owner of the company must be a BC resident (or residents)
- Your business must operate solely or primarily within BC
- You must be currently operating, and employing BC residents (with employees totaling fewer than 149)
- You must be registered in and pay taxes in BC
- You must have a business license number and a GST number; plus a PST and WorkSafe BC number if applicable
The grant is open only to businesses with a sales component that can reasonably shift to an ecommerce model. To meet these requirements, your business must:
- Have generated sales of more than $30,000 in either 2019 or the year preceding application
- Have repeatable products, or, if you sell handmade art or jewelry, multiple unique products with significant similarities (think: a series of custom necklaces with different pendants, or similarly-sized paintings of slightly different subjects)
The grant is primarily geared toward businesses that don’t currently have an online shop, but you can still be eligible even if you currently do some online sales activities. If your business currently has an online shop, you are still eligible as long as you have no more than 3 of the following 5 attributes:
- Customer registration and information security features (for example, a customer login portal and credit card encryption)
- Shopping cart and order management capabilities
- Payment processing options that automatically apply taxes and shipping costs
- A searchable product catalogue with inventory status
- Website analytics and reporting capabilities
How Do I Apply?
Applications for the grant are now open! The first step for applying is to develop a grant proposal that clearly explains your plan for using the allocated funds, including cost estimates broken down into categories such as online shop development, digital customer acquisition, and employee training.
Once you’ve developed your proposal, fill out the Launch Online application form through the Launch Online website. The application form will stay open until all the funds have been allocated.
You will be contacted by Alacrity Canada within 3 weeks of your submission. If you meet the qualification criteria, you will be conditionally approved and asked to provide supporting documentation — such as tax returns and business registration paperwork — to prove that you meet all of the requirements.
If you are approved, you’ll need to hire a BC-based company or service provider to help you set up your online shop and train your employees. You’ll also need to be able to submit regular progress reports explaining your process for ecommerce implementation.
How Can Yardstick Help?
That last bit about hiring a BC-based company to assist with setting up or improving your ecommerce business is where Yardstick comes in.
We are a BC-based company with over 20 years of combined experience working with companies of various sizes and in various industries to develop beautiful, secure, functional, and powerful online stores. The advantage of Yardstick is that not only do we have experience building, growing, and managing ecommerce websites — we also have in-depth knowledge of current web security best practices through our sister-brand WordZite.
Our work with thriving ecommerce-based businesses like Time Out Source for Sports, Botanical Paperworks and Wild at Heart Pets showcases our ability to develop clear, highly functional online shops that are scalable and appeal to both local and global customer bases. We’ve worked with owners and managers of businesses of all sizes, ranging from large, international ecommerce operations, to local B2B providers and neighbourhood shops. Whether you’ve been operating your business for decades, or are just starting out, Yardstick can help you set up your ecommerce website, develop and manage an effective online ad campaign, and create a user experience that’s simple, engaging, and keeps your customers coming back year after year.
Additional Grant Support
After learning about this great opportunity for BC business owners, we reached out to our Grant Angels at Granted Consulting. Granted Consulting is advising clients to apply on their own for this amazing opportunity — but if you feel like you’ve lost out on other hiring, training, and market expansion grants, they also have a free online grant calculator that tells you how much grant funding your company could qualify for.
Let’s Get Started!
Well, what are you waiting for? The Launch Online grant is an unprecedented opportunity for BC businesses to gain a foothold in the online marketplace. The pools of funds won’t last long. So, contact Yardstick today to get started.