The future of work has arrived ahead of schedule. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the adoption of technology and the need for all business owners to reimagine how they operate and connect with their customers. The truth is, this digital transformation is nothing new, it has been happening slowly for years. Now, as businesses and consumers are spending more time and more dollars online, companies must move faster to figure out the new digital reality.
To help businesses adapt to an increasingly digital world, Accelerate Okanagan is currently running the DER3 Program, which connects local businesses with local digital service providers and subject matter expertise 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 Mexican Treasure’s Alicia Belmont, one of the companies participating in the DER3 program, to learn more about her experiences so far and what she’s discovered about taking her business online.
Mexican Treasures is a family-owned business that provides hand-crafted jewelry. Alicia, the founder, designs the pieces in Kelowna while her family in Taxco, Mexico beautifully crafts the jewelry using a quality silver that is unlike any other. This is due to Alicia and her family being a part of the Mayan Association, so they know exactly where their high-quality materials are coming from.
What was your biggest challenge before joining the DER3 program?
Trying to find your niche, who you should be selling to, the ideal customer, and where you should sell were my biggest unknowns. I did a bunch of different things, including online but that was a lot of work without a lot of success. I used to do a lot of artisan markets but that’s been closed due to COVID, same with some of the stores that were displaying my jewelry. Finding my way online is how I see the future growth of my business. I don’t want to just survive, that’s not a living. I want to put in the effort and grow it. I need to call it a business, it needs to be profitable.
When did you decide to take your business online?
I have been trying to get into the online market since my business opened in Canada in 2017. However, it’s an area that requires knowledge. You need to know how to promote your business and how to establish it online. It’s very competitive. I tried to learn those skills on my own but, when you have the experts looking at your business, you realize that you knew so little. I’m learning a lot and, thanks to the DER3 program, I’m more confident. With the help of professionals, I will be able to achieve my goals.
What really helped you in making the first steps towards going digital?
I spoke with two people in the DER3 program and they took a good look at the general idea of my business to see what I was doing, how I was doing it, and share their advice on what they think I need. It really helped me to make the decision of giving 100% to the online aspect of my business. It made a big difference having someone break down the process into small parts and identifying what is most important to focus on.
What is your biggest challenge now?
Going online requires a lot of knowledge in different areas. In terms of marketing, you need to know where to advertise, how to advertise, and who your ideal customer is. Also, you need to have a budget for it all. Right now, my biggest challenge is building a good website. Thanks to Accelerate Okanagan, I’m being guided to where I should focus my efforts, like getting better photographs of my products. But now I need help with things like keywords, SEO, and coding, so that is also where I’m looking.
What would you say to other entrepreneurs who are thinking of going digital?
Just give it a go! It’s not easy but once you get started and access expertise you realize that it’s not complicated. It’s just a matter of learning how it works. If you’re selling a retail product, this COVID situation makes us realize that we need to think outside of the box and recognize the online platform as a reality. Businesses need to be there.
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.