As independent retailers struggle to compete with big-box stores and e-commerce behemoths such as Amazon during the pandemic, two of Ottawa’s largest business organizations have joined forces with a pair of local startups to provide product discounts and free delivery service to members.
The Ottawa Board of Trade and the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas have partnered to launch an online platform that offers discounts on services from local businesses. The Board of Trade received a $5,000 grant from Invest Ottawa’s Digital Main Street initiative to launch the platform, which went live last month.
Powered by locally developed marketing app FanSaves, the digital marketplace features deals targeted at the general public as well as exclusive offers for members of the Board of Trade and OCOBIA.
Currently, more than 50 Ottawa businesses have posted deals that include 20 per cent off executive and career coaching sessions and discounts on co-working space.
Lynn Ladd, manager of programs and member experience at the Board of Trade, says the program is designed to spur residents to spend money at locally owned enterprises.
“When the pandemic first hit, we had members that went to zero revenue literally overnight,” Ladd says. “We just needed to do something tangible and support businesses as best we can.”
"COVID really helped people understand that small businesses are the backbone of the economy."
The organization, which now has about 600 members, had been talking about collaborating with FanSaves for a while. When Ladd suggested partnering on a venture to help the board’s members, the company readily agreed.
“COVID really helped people understand that small businesses are the backbone of the economy,” says FanSaves co-founder Shannon Ferguson.
Meanwhile, the Board of Trade realized that while many of its members were struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, mainstreet retailers – businesses that didn’t fall under OBoT’s umbrella – had it even worse.
Sensing an opportunity, Ladd contacted OCOBIA, which represents more than 6,000 brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants and other small businesses across the city, to see if its members wanted to be included in the initiative.
OCOBIA executive director Michelle Groulx quickly said yes.
As it happens, OCOBIA was also working on its own effort to help its members – the group recently received a $25,000 grant from Digital Main Street to provide free local delivery for local businesses courtesy of Ottawa startup Trexity. Groulx offered to open that deal to OBoT members as well.
Under the new program, OCOBIA and the Board of Trade will provide a $250 credit worth roughly 14 deliveries to any member that agrees to use Trexity for its local delivery service. The promotion, which ends on Monday, is open to the first 100 members of either organization to sign up.
Trexity provides same-day local delivery for businesses, giving local retailers a better opportunity to compete with the likes of Amazon, says founder Alok Ahuja.
While most local businesses offer curbside pickup, very few have been able to provide affordable local delivery, he explains, and Trexity fills that gap.
“The ongoing narrative has always been: let's work to uplift our local economies,” Ahuja says.
This is the first time the Board of Trade and OCOBIA have worked together on a project, but it likely won’t be the last, Ladd says.
“Both OCOBIA and the Ottawa Board of Trade are keenly interested in working together moving forward to support the business community,” she says.
Online discounts will continue until June 30 for OCOBIA members and will be offered exclusively to OBoT members after that.