In previous articles, such as this and this, we talked about how expanding your traditional business to have an online presence can help a business through the pandemic. However, the reality is that during these tough times, it might be hard for local small businesses to have the fund to do so in a timely manner. Here is where the “BC Launch Online Grant Program” can help.
BC provincial government announced a $12 million grant program that is aimed at helping small and medium businesses put their business online. The grant will pay for up to 75% of your eligible expense up to a maximum of $7,500 per business.
This can significantly reduce the burden for struggling businesses to either improve their website to have an eCommerce platform, or to build an eCommerce website.
Here are the criteria the applicants must meet.
- The business is owned by a B.C resident or residents.
- The business’s role or primary operations are located in B.C.
- The business is registered in B.C and is currently operating.
- Employs less than 149 B.C. residents.
- Pay taxes in B.C.
- Generated sales of more than $30,000 in the past year.
- Has repeatable products.
- Does not currently have an online store or has an online store with limited features.
The definition of limited features is If you have an online store, but your online store does not have more than three of the following features
- Customer registration and information security features.
- Shopping cart and order management capabilities.
- Payment processing options including the application of appropriate taxes and shipping costs at the time of ordering.
- Product catalogue, search and inventory status.
- Website analytics and reporting capabilities.
How can I use the grant?
To be eligible for the grant, you must use one or more B.C. based service providers to build or improve your online store. 12 weeks after receiving your grant, your online shop will need to demonstrate it has all 5 features mentioned above.
What do you need to apply?
There are some documents you will need to provide when you submit your application.
- Current year balance or past fiscal year statement.
- Proof of a valid B.C. business licence.
- Business number.
- PST and WorkSafe registrations, if applicable.
- CRA Notice of assessment (2019); or first section of T2 return or first section of owner’s tax return (2019 or 2020).
- B.C. business registration number and official registered name.
What does the grant cover?
According to the BC provincial notice, these services are eligible expenses.
- Platform and website development.
- Copy and online content writing.
- Developing an online inventory of goods and products.
- Pictures, including stock photos or related graphics needed, as well as hiring a photographer.
- eCommerce platform subscription (up to 1 year).
- Online advertising (up to 1 year).
- Search Engine Optimization.
- Creating banners and other embedded advertising.
- Staff training to manage the online shop, learn about digital marketing, etc.
These eligible expenses indicated that all the basic features and functionalities of an online shop are covered.
According to Statistics Canada, from February to May 2020, traditional retail sales went down by approximately 18%, while the total online retail sales increased by almost 100%. Although the pandemic won’t last forever, the habit of shopping online for consumers will continue to increase. This provincial grant program is intended to help businesses capitalize on this shift in consumer behaviour.
Although the BC Launch Online Grant Program is open for application until the end of March, it is a first come first serve program until funding is fully allocated. Up to 25% of the funds will be reserved for Indigenous businesses and businesses operating outside of the lower mainland and greater Victoria. Therefore if you are eligible, you should start prepping the documents and apply as soon as possible.
If you meet the criteria mentioned above, and you would like to expand your business to have an online presence, please give us a shout and we will be more than happy to help you through the application process and work with you to build your very own online shop.