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ShopHere's FREE Shopify Website Program

Post by Holly Mortimer
July 16, 2020

How theProvince’s ShopHere Program Can Help You Build Your Website


During the current pandemic, many businesses have come to the realization that delaying the building of an e-commerce equipped website is no longer optional. However, most business owners are finding themselves maxing out their hours worked and unable to make the time or find the budget to build the website they need to thrive in the new economy.

Not only do many businesses need to enable an e-commerce function on their current websites, but the majority of small business owners also need a brand-new website, built from the ground up, in order to enable them to serve the new needs of their customers in the COVID-19 era.

In a joint partnership between the Federal government, the province’s Digital Mainstreet program, Google and Shopify, government and private business have come together to share the funds and the skills needed to be able to create the ShopHere program. This program matches a student web developer with a small business owner or an artist. The web developer builds an entirely new e-commerce equipped Shopify website for the client, completely free of any charge. Shopify is even offering an extended three-month free trial of their website for all businesses during the pandemic, allowing business owners to use their limited budgets for other operations expenses and at the same time, giving them the opportunity to earn revenue where they are currently not equipped to do so.

I enrolled in the program in order to test it from start to finish and I’m here to report that the entire experience was incredible, frictionless and really presents significant value to any business owner, in any industry. Below you’ll find a recap of the entire process and my concluding thoughts on the program.

To start, you need to apply via the ShopHere website: https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere/

In order to qualify, you will need to be a registered business or artist, be non-franchised or corporate in nature and have a need for an online presence. You also need to have less than 10 full-time employees or 25 if you’re a restaurant or cafe.

Here’s what the requirement part of the application looks like:

ShopHere Application

Next it’s as simple as waiting for 24 - 48 hours to hear from your Shopify site builder via email. They’ll guide you through all of their needs, such as logos, images and copy for your new site through multiple email exchanges. The more you have prepared, the faster this part of the process will be. moves. I’d recommend having a couple of websites you like as examples for your rep. This way they’ll be better able to create the look and feel you like with ease.

As your sessions and website progress, you’ll have video check-ins with your site builder to make sure you’re happy with their progress. Typically they’ll give you a few template options to choose from and walk you through the process patiently. This part takes approximately 2 weeks or more if your site is complicated, but ultimately, they’re looking to get you in and out as quickly as possible. Your free 3-month trial starts on the day you’re accepted so it’s to your benefit to move as quickly as possible. If you respond to their requests in a timely manner and you should have your new website up and running within a month.

The penultimate meeting will find you transferring your domain, if you have one, registering your payment method and having a thorough walkthrough of your new site so you know how to make changes and add new things as you grow. Make sure you bring a pen and paper to every meeting to record questions and notes as your builder goes through everything. It’s the longest meeting you’ll have with them and potentially be the most overwhelming.

Once you’ve been granted full ownership of the site (entered a payment method for when your trial ends), then you’ll have one final meeting to wrap up any lingering questions. You’ll also be asked  and to answer your builder’s ShopHere survey questions for their own metrics and to improve on the program as more answers come in. This part is mandatory in order to complete the transaction and have the builder removed from your website. They also need it in order to be paid for the work they’ve done on your site.

That’s it.

All in all, it took me 2.5 weeks to complete the process and I’m incredibly happy with the end result. Please keep in mind that you also can cancel your extended free trial (3 months) if you’re not happy with the website so the risk is literally non-existent. There truly is ZERO cost to you, the business owner, to have a fully functional, e-commerce ready website built by a professional. If you qualify, I highly recommend enrolling in the program.


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