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Digital Transformation Grant Open to Small Businesses

Dufferin Media’s Sarah Clarke Discusses the Digital Transformation Grant – Dufferin News YouTube Channel

Many small businesses in Dufferin County and elsewhere in Ontario can receive a $2,500 grant to help them go digital.

Ontario businesses have until October 31, 2021, to apply for the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant that Digital Main Street (DMS) administers and is funded by the Province of Ontario. DMS is supported by a consortium of companies, including Google, Shopify, and Microsoft, and is intended to connect brick-and-mortar businesses with digital product and service providers. This is the third intake, consisting of expanded geographic eligibility beyond companies located in business improvement areas, in addition to a more simplified process application process. Money has been set aside for 3,000 Digital Transformation grants in Ontario and will no longer be open to new applicants once funding is depleted.

“The Digital Main Street Program has been incredibly beneficial to our Dufferin-based businesses, particularly during the pandemic,” said Ruth Phillips, Economic Development and Culture Manager for the Town of Orangeville, in a press release distributed by the municipality. “Many businesses are expanding their ventures and finding new revenue sources through the implementation of online services and expanded digitalization efforts.” 

The Orangeville & Area Small Business Enterprise Centre notified the public that they received funding from DMS to hire trained digital specialists. These professionals will aid small businesses across Dufferin County in adopting online technologies and digitally transform their operations by guiding them through the application process for the $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant. At the time of the press release in August, more than $175,000 had been allocated to companies in Dufferin, in addition to free expertise and guidance.

To be eligible for the Digital Transformation Grant, registered businesses must have less than 50 employees, a permanent brick-and-mortar establishment in Ontario, paying commercial property tax in some form, and is open to the public for walk-in and onsite purchases of goods and services. Wholesalers, manufacturers, franchisees, not-for-profits, charities, and digital service providers are excluded from receiving the grant, in addition to businesses that have received it previously. Moreover, the business must be owned by an Ontario resident over the age of eighteen operating the company in Ontario while also being a citizen or permanent resident. There is a five to ten-minute pre-qualification process to ensure businesses are eligible for the funding before proceeding further in the process.

“This is an amazing opportunity for so many businesses,” said Sarah Clarke, Founder of Dufferin Media. This local digital marketing firm is a Digital Main Street vendor that assists small businesses in executing their digital transformation plan, including website creation and social media management. “We audit businesses on a regular basis and it’s disheartening to see how many business owners still don’t have their digital foundations in place. I think this is an opportunity not to be missed, where the government and the other organizations involved are helping small business owners get that step up.”

The $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant can be used to hire professionals to develop a new website or redesign an existing one, in addition to improving search engine optimization and managing one’s social media. The grant money can also be used for professional photography, to capture high-quality images of products or the company’s storefront, for marketing purposes. Different software packages are eligible, including graphic design, security, productivity, and social media management. There are exclusions on what the $2,500 can be used for, including domain name renewals, web hosting, software subscription renewals, logo redesign and rebranding, and purchases made before grant approval. In certain circumstances, the grant administrators will approve hardware procurements, an example being a point-of-sale system, but they must be deemed necessary by grant administrators beforehand. 

“You can do something really creative and fun, like invest the funds in a TikTok campaign or something where you recognize that there’s that opportunity to get on that new and exciting trend,” told Clarke. “Those interested can talk to a business advisor or a digital marketing strategist like myself, and we can look at some different opportunities and possibilities.”

Digital Transformation Grant: How to Apply (2021) – Ontario Business Improvement Area Association YouTube Channel

The application process for the Digital Transformation grant involves assessing the current state of the business from a digital standpoint, which involves answering a series of multiple-choice questions regarding digital strengths such as the company’s website and social media presence while also registering for services such as Google My Business. There are also a series of videos and associated quizzes that applicants must complete to receive the grant. The course is intended to equip viewers with the knowledge to create and execute a worthwhile digital transformation plan for their business. It includes multiple subjects such as digital marketing, content creation for businesses, and fundamental financial analysis. The set of videos is estimated to take 2.5 hours to complete and has been shortened from the original course that took approximately ten hours. Lastly, business owners are required to build a digital transformation plan that includes doing a strength and weakness analysis, setting goals, and creating a budget with an associated action plan. Any changes to the action plan and budget after funds are disbursed do not need to be reported as long as the money is used on eligible expenses, with the exception being hardware purchases.

“If it costs you 10 hours of your time, you’re earning $250 an hour for that time,” declared Clarke, who says it will likely take less time than that, especially if businesses utilize the professional assistance provided locally through the Digital Main Street program. “That’s valuable as it will benefit your business in the long-term.”

Recipients must consume the grant money by February 28, 2022, or else unspent funds may need to be returned. For more information on the Digital Main Street Grants Program, one can visit the website A discussion with Sarah Clarke, the founder of Dufferin Media, about the Digital Transformation Grant can be viewed on the Dufferin News YouTube Channel. To learn more about Dufferin Media, go to

Full Disclosure: Dufferin Media and Dufferin’s Spotlight created a strategic alliance in 2020. To learn more details, check out this press release.

Dufferin MediaSarah Clarke

References – Digital Transformation Grant Open to Small Businesses

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