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Dawson Creek joins Small Town Love, an online initiative to boost small business
DAWSON CREEK – With the help of a grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT), the City of Dawson Creek is taking on a membership in Small Town Love, an online initiative meant to invigorate interest in small businesses across northern British Columbia.
The project, started in Quesnel by Amy Quarry in 2011, is essentially a website that acts as a networking and marketing platform for small Northern B.C. businesses.
“All the independent businesses need a platform in which to showcase what they do, and it’s community building,” said Quarry at a Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce-hosted presentation given to business owners in Dawson Creek March 10.
“So we’re wanting to make sure that those independent businesses have a way to market and a way to promote . . . it’s a smaller customer base, and this is a way for them to get the word out about what they offer and what services they provide.”
The initial $600 web hosting fee which the program charges was waived through a granting process of NDIT, which partnered with Small Town Love in 2013.
The yearly cost of the program will continue to be $600 per year, an amount which Brenda Ginter, Director of Corporate Administration for Dawson Creek, says will likely be reimbursed annually through the Economic Development Capacity Building Fund.
“They won’t bill us the first year, and after that they’ll bill us $600 but they allow us to claim it back through a different grant that they [NDIT] provide . . . if there are any costs associated with it, we just claim it back through their grant funding. So there is no cost to the city, it’s just a great benefit to the businesses.”
Councillor Shaely Wilbur sees the initiative as a way to heighten the profile of Dawson Creek’s local independent retail and service economy.
“As soon as I read it, I thought, this is a perfect fit,” Wilbur said.
“It just really helps rejuvenate our downtown core. I have found businesses that I didn’t know existed through this early process of bringing this forward, so I see it as a program to really build the foundation of our community, and I think small business is the foundation of our community.”
Natasha Lacourse, owner of Vintage & Restoration Love, which she opened five months ago in Dawson Creek, sees it as a no-brainer for her business.
“For me this is just a really good marketing opportunity,” she said. “I think it’s a good collaboration, I think it’s great marketing. I think Dawson Creek has needed this for a long time.”
The registration fee for businesses is a one-time cost of $100, which goes into a pool and is used for marketing strategies.
All businesses registered form a committee, which decides as a group on how to spend the funds. In exchange for the fee, they receive a webpage hosted by Small Town Love, complete with profiling and professional photography.
“It’s a really great way to get the functionality of a website without having to spend a thousand dollars on a website,” said Quarry.
Quarry explained that the Small Town Love business pages perform well in Google searches, often appearing higher in search results than the business’ own websites.
“This is a way that it’s affordable for the local businesses, the local entrepreneurs, and it’s a really good online marketing program that’s already proven to work,” Wilbur said.
“Our job is to create economic opportunities for the North,” said Renata Pylypiv King, Director of Business Development for NDIT.
NDIT was begun in 2005 with a one-time investment of $185 million from the provincial government.
It provides grants and assistance to aid the economic development of the northern regions of British Columbia.
Since Small Town Love entered a partnership with NDIT, it has expanded from Quesnel to include 27 northern communities, including Fort Nelson, Burns Lake and 100 Mile House.
Pouce Coupe and Taylor will also be joining soon, according to the Small Town Love website.
“This project is one of the biggest buy-local programs in North America now, because those stores have come forward, and I think it’s amazing that we can build that community in Northern B.C. I think we have something really special to offer, and I think that that’s exciting to be a part of,” said Quarry.