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B.C. businesses now eligible for grant money to help transition to online sales

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Eligible small and medium-small businesses in British Columbia can now get financial support to move their businesses online.

The Launch Online Grant Program provides funding to create an online shop and/or improve e-commerce experiences. The grant will pay for up to 75 per cent of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $7,500 per business, the province said.

The program was launched as businesses struggle to attract revenue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial support will not be offered to businesses who already transitioned to an online model in the earlier stages of the pandemic.

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“This was identified to me as a very important program and needed,” Jobs and Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon said.

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“E-commerce sales are projected to double in 2020 and are expected to increase even further in 2021. Our grant will provide businesses with more opportunity to increase their sales, and create good, local jobs throughout the province.”

The province has committed $12 million for the program. A quarter of the program funds will be reserved for regional and Indigenous businesses.

Vancouver Island Brewing general manager Dave Nicholls said his business is down substantially due to a drop off in visitors to Victoria and low consumer confidence to visit the brewery. His business went to an online shop in March but struggled with technical challenges.

The brewery is eligible to receive the new grant money because it will update the current online sales structure.

“While we were happy to get it off the ground, we soon realized that the online store could not meet all of our needs and the uniqueness of shipping beer,” Nicholls said.

“We are excited by the possibility of receiving a grant from this program so we can enhance our website and share our locally crafted beers with customers across B.C.”

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The province is estimating 1,500 small- and medium-sized B.C. businesses are eligible.

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The Launch Online Grant program is based on a first-come, first-served basis and will run until March 31, 2021, or until all funds are distributed. In order to be eligible businesses must have generated sales of more than $30,000 in either 2019 or 2020 and have one to 149 employees.

This grant is different than the Small and Medium Business Recovery Grant program. The province struggled to manage the $300 million program. So far just $12 million has been allocated, even though the program was launched in September.

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“We are certainly not going to waste any money,” Kahlon said.

“So what we have seen in the first three months of the small business grant program was just over 1,000 applications after we made the changes in late December, so just this month we have seen well over 4,000 applications come in just over the last few weeks.”

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