The City of Calgary announced the Digital Service Squad (DSS) program to provide free one-on-one online support to local small businesses on Feb. 7, 2022. The program is made up of 15 post-secondary students, hired by the City, with digital expertise.
The DDS program is eligible for small businesses that are located in Calgary and registered in Alberta, have zero to 49 employees, and run as home-based or commercial. The program is not open to non-profits, charitable trust and franchises.
Erin Chrusch, a leader of the business and local economy team for the City of Calgary, said that around 1,500 businesses indicated their interest in the program.
“We don’t know how many of them will actually sign up,” Chrusch said. “Our goal is to help around 2,300 businesses within the year that we have the funding for.”
The DSS program’s primary focus is to assist local small businesses that are struggling in the pandemic.
“Small business owners nowadays have gone through a lot and don’t have the time to understand what exactly would be most beneficial for them,” Chrusch said.
“We figured out that having a strong and ongoing digital presence would be the easiest way for the owners to grow their businesses.”
According to the City of Calgary, the support includes digital transformation support, social media strategy, website building, point-of-sale assistance, search engine optimization tips, assistance creating customer databases and help streamlining business processes.
Jamie Lee is a home business owner as a nail technician who has been struggling to find new customers during the pandemic.
“I am interested in signing up for this program to learn how to advertise my home business online,” Lee said. “Having a proper SNS account or website is very important as the pandemic continues.”
Lee hopes Calgary launches more programs like DSS to support small business owners like her.
“It’s a great opportunity to get support from the students for free,” she said