The pandemic along with restrictions from the government have forced many business owners into the digital platform. This means that small business owners are facing new challenges in uncharted territory. In addition, they have to compete with the big names that have a big influence online.
Business owners with no experience in the digital world cannot keep up without help. A recent study carried out by the Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA) confirms this. Entrepreneurs who have been running their trades in a traditional way struggle even to set up a business profile on social media and search engines.
Reasons why business owners struggle with the online transition
In the area where the study was carried out, most business owners either speak Cantonese and Mandarin.
And the world of e-commerce is largely in English. Therefore, business owners who have little to no knowledge about the language find it difficult to perform basic functions such as setting up a Google My Business profile.
The traditional way of business
In the Chinatown area of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, people run their business through word of mouth. They also relied on heavy foot traffic and made sales through in-person sales.
Since they relied heavily on dealing with customers in person, transitioning to an online platform is a new challenge.
Why these business owners are turning to the online platform
Despite the challenges, many business owners in the Chinatown area of Toronto are turning to the online platform. The reason is simple. People are desperate to make a living.
As mentioned earlier, the areas have been under a stay-at-home order and state of emergency for the better part of 2020. The study concludes that the loss of business is between 60 to 100%. This means that many are out of business and, for some, lost their entire livelihoods. The restaurant owners, in particular, are the worst hit.
Recognizing this struggle, the Chinatown Business Improvement Area or BIA has enlisted the help of students. The students speak the native language and are experts in digital marketing. They help with setting up a business profile, a website and also navigating an e-commerce website.
Besides, the BIA members also connect these struggling business owners to provide up to $2,500 in grants. This is part of the Digital Main Street Grant from the Ontario government to help small business owners.
Furthermore, the province is also assisting business owners with one-on-one tech support. Eligible business owners can also get up to $20,000 to get through the government restrictions put in place due to the pandemic.