Making Edmonton Digital, a partnership between the University of Alberta, City of Edmonton, and Digital Main Street, is helping local businesses create and maintain an engaging online presence.
Funded by the City of Edmonton and Western Economic Diversification Canada, the free program connects business owners with a consultant who can work with them for a maximum of 12 hours. Services could include learning how to update Google listings, creating websites or accounts on social media channels, and work on branding. The program will run until September, or when they reach a total of 630 businesses. So far, approximately 400 businesses have signed up.
Brett Eigner, marketing lead on the project, told Taproot that services are tailored to the business owner’s level of understanding. “We walk everyone through the steps carefully and cater [to] each individual and digital literacy level accordingly”, he said. “Whether we are showing them how to edit their webpage or how to use email, everyone gets the utmost respect, care, and attention.”
Businesses in the food and hospitality sector that have joined the program include farmers’ market vendors such as Sunshine Organic, shops like Carol’s Quality Sweets, long-standing restaurants like Blue Willow, and newer establishments like Pine & Dine. Food-related businesses currently make up 67 of the program participants.
Sunshine Organic is among the food businesses participating in Making Edmonton Digital. (Sunshine Organic Farm/Instagram)
Businesses run by individuals or families who may not speak English as their first language, or that represent marginalized communities, often face additional barriers.
“We have a range of languages spoken by our consultants,” said Eigner. “When we have had a language not spoken by our team we have arranged to get a translator to assist our work with the business owner.”
Eigner also shared that while they have done some targeted outreach, including with an Indigenous business association and Black-Owned Market, they are hoping to do more over the summer.
Eigner acknowledged that some additional support may be required beyond the 12 hours allotted. Their partner Digital Main Street can offer some extra training, but it is limited. Eigner said they are working through various ideas, but nothing is confirmed yet.
To sign up, businesses can visit the Making Edmonton Digital website for more information.