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ROGER TAYLOR: Halifax Partnership helps small business develop online presence


When Erin Dawe lost her job last year due to the pandemic, it was stressful and motivating.

The spouse of a military man and mother of two young boys, Dawe decided she had to go for it and start her own business.

So, last October she opened a shop, Momma Bears Boutique, in the Paddlers Cove on Prince Albert Road in Dartmouth. It is an eco-friendly boutique that sells personal care, bath and beauty items.

Although she doesn’t claim to be an expert, Dawe said she wants to prove that “zero-waste” shopping can save time, money and the environment. She shares her knowledge with customers, listens to their concerns and tries to put together an environmentally friendly plan that the customer can sustain.

Dawe is enthusiastic about her business and motivated by a plan to source most of the products from Nova Scotia vendors as much as possible. But a bricks-and-mortar shop alone just doesn’t cut it for retailers in the time of COVID-19, and that was an issue for Dawe, who describes herself as technically challenged.

By coincidence, the Halifax Partnership launched the ShopHERE program last year that has helped the Momma Bears owner build her online presence.

Erin Dawe poses for a photo in her new eco-friendly shop Momma Bears Boutique at Paddlers Cove in Dartmouth on Thursday, April 8, 2021. - Ryan Taplin
Erin Dawe poses for a photo in her new eco-friendly shop Momma Bears Boutique at Paddlers Cove in Dartmouth on Thursday, April 8, 2021. - Ryan Taplin

Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE aims to help 80 to 100 small Halifax-area businesses build online stores, increase their ecommerce capability and, in the process, minimize the negative economic effect of the pandemic.

Originally established in Toronto, the partnership adopted the ShopHERE program with the help of $100,000 from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund.

Partnership vice-president Alison Gillan said it promotes the program and screens the participants.

It is free to small local businesses that meet these criteria:

• A registered business based in Halifax

• Operation in the retail or manufacturing sectors

• Has a commercial location or is home-based

• Fewer than 25 employees

• Must have a fully developed, sales-ready, scalable product

• Not a corporate chain or franchise

• Must be willing to commit time to onboard and maintain websites

Participating businesses are matched with a ShopHERE student helper to build or customize and optimize their online store. The qualified business can start selling online within days, and the program will provide training to owners and support their digital marketing, shipping and inventory management.

Participants also have access to free benefits and tools from partners, such as Shopify, Google, Square, Microsoft, Intuit Quickbooks and Mastercard.

The participants graduate from the program after three months, Gillan said. There are 58 active members and the partnership has opened up 25 additional spots. Businesses can apply for the program at halifaxpartnership.com/shophere.

Rimot is another Dartmouth company participating in ShopHERE. The business, established in 2016, provides companies with the capability to monitor their radio-frequency infrastructure.

However, with the onset of the pandemic, Rimot management realized it had the capability of creating a way for companies to monitor the health of their employees. RimotHEALTH was born.

According to spokesman Akin Gulerto, the company has created a specially built kiosk, which individuals access by using a specific frequency-operated button (FOB) or smartphone.

Without touching anything, a thermal camera can measure the temperature of an individual, detect whether they are wearing a mask and, by using foot pedals to answer yes or no questions, determine whether an employee is potentially ill. If someone fails the tests, the data is sent to the cloud and an alert via email to a designated person within the organization.

The RimotHEALTH kiosk is sold across North America and Europe. Gulerto said the total package costs about $8,000 — $5,600 for the physical equipment and a $2,400 annual subscription fee. It comes in a box and is easily set up.

He said that Jason Guidry, the Halifax Partnership’s director of trade and international partnerships, suggested to RimotHEALTH that its product would benefit from the ShopHERE program.

Although RimotHEALTH hasn’t been selling many kiosks via e-commerce, Gulerto said potential clients can see the product and understand how it works by looking at video on the website. He said he believes the website is still useful and has the potential to attract sales.

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