In response to the impacts of COVID-19, small and mainstreet businesses are seeking new ways to connect with their customers and adapt to an increasingly digital world. To support this transition, Accelerate Okanagan has launched the DER3 Program, which connects local businesses with local digital service providers and subject matter experts to help them enter or expand into the digital economy. The program starts with an assessment to understand how you are currently leveraging technology in your business and where you can make improvements that will have the biggest impact.
We sat down with Accelerate Okanagan’s DER3 Business Advisor, Richard Takai, to learn more about how this program can benefit local businesses of all types and why now is the time to get started.
Who is DER3 for?
The program is completely industry agnostic. Beads, bikes, seafood, artists, even lego-based companies have benefited from the program. Almost any business that is looking to either increase their online presence or to enter into the digital economy can benefit from DER3. Initially, it was targeted towards traditional brick-and-mortar businesses but the applications of this program are really broad. There is also an opportunity for local digital service providers to get involved with providing some of the solutions these small businesses are needing.
What are some of the ways DER3 can help businesses?
Even those businesses that may already have a website can benefit by increasing their online sales, create a digital strategy or get clarity on where to focus their business. There’s a lot of strategic advice on general ways for expanding your business.
We look at things like:
If companies are hesitant about jumping into DER3, what recommendations would you share with them?
Sign up. The advice I, or any Accelerate Okanagan mentors, provide is free. It will give you a general idea of what opportunities there are for your company and what it will take to help you move forward. It’s a quick application process and a 60-90 minute meeting. By that point, you can decide what is a fit for your business and how you want to move forward to achieve your goals.
What are some of the main hurdles you’re finding companies are having?
We want businesses to come in with eyes wide open. If they don’t have the time or resources, it can be difficult. However, it’s my role to find out whether there is something that we can provide that fits into what they do have. We can support them through the change but they need to be able to commit the time and finances for engaging with digital service providers—if they choose to work with them.
As the DER3 Business Advisor, how do you help small businesses?
My responsibility is to meet with the small and medium-sized business clients that are looking for assistance. Once they’ve applied, I set up an assessment meeting with them—which typically lasts 60-90 minutes. I find out who they are, what they do, where they are now, and where they need to be. We also have a variety of digital service providers and subject matter experts that I can refer them to for more specialized advice.
Have you seen any success with the DER3 program?
Yes, we have. For example, there is a high-end bike shop that was doing pretty well during COVID. When they launched their online store earlier this year they saw their business skyrocket and wondered why they didn’t do it sooner. There was no downside to increasing their online presence. And it doesn’t mean that you’re not carrying on business through your physical storefront, you can do both at the same time.
How would you like to see DER3 impact local businesses in the Okanagan?
This program was born out of a reaction to COVID-19, but the reality is that you need to be connected online regardless. DER3 is a great catalyst to bring more traditional businesses into the digital economy and make money online. COVID-19 will pass, but the importance of being online will not change. Taking advantage of this program now is a great opportunity that you don’t want to miss.
Ready to apply? Small and mainstreet businesses looking for solutions and support can apply here.
Want to help? Digital service providers, consultants, freelancers, and technology experts apply here.