What is the First Step Business Accelerator Program?

The First Step Business Accelerator is a program designed to assist small Canadian businesses to transition successfully to the online digital world.

The program is sponsored by Rio Tinto and is currently available in 4 provinces.  British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Labrador and the North West Territories in areas where Rio Tinto currently operates.

Who can apply?

If you are located in one of the areas the program is currently offered you may apply for any of the 3 steps.  Home based business are also permitted to apply.

If you are outside of the area, please take the time to apply.  We are actively working with additional corporations to bring the program to communities across Canada.  Your application will assist us in confirming interest in your community and encourage corporations and governments to get involved.

Do I have to take all 3 steps?

You are welcome to apply for any of the 3 steps however if you are not taking the first step (website and branding portion) you are required to have a responsive website.  If you apply for step 2, we will evaluate your current website and branding to ensure you are ready to move to step 2.

What is the time requirement?

Once your program starts, we meet each week for 1.5 hours.  Typically these classes are on Tuesdays, Wednesday or Thursdays.  As we want as many business to be able to participate in the live webinar’s/meetings, we suggest you pick the class time that works best for your schedule.

If you cannot attend a meeting, you will receive the recorded meeting with the corresponding material and you will be able to view the class at a time that works for you.

Each step does have work that is required to be completed (e.g. your copy for your website), this can take a couple hours of your time, so you should be prepared to spend 2-5 hours a week on the class and completing exercises.

As our classes are now large, we cannot hold up a class if you haven’t completed an assignment.

We are also available 1 hour per week (to be scheduled with your instructor) for a one on one overview and to provide personal assistance to you.

What will I get out of this?

As with everything in life, you will get out of the program what you put in.

All we ask is that you come with passion about your business and a honest desire to learn and grow.  The rest, we will do our very best to assist you.

We do not do all the work for you but we do as much as we can to assist you to build your business and your confidence in the digital world.

What if my area isn't offered?

Currently we are able to offer the program in the areas which we have currently sponsored.  Having said that, we are in talks with other corporations that are also interested in sponsoring their communities.  If you don’t see your community in the application list, please continue to fill it out (select ‘not on the list’),  this will greatly assist us in showing corporations the areas that are needed in sponsorship.

Can I sponsor a small business?

Yes you can!  If you are a business (or even an individual!) who would like to offer the program in your community, please contact us at .  You can also download the sponsorship information deck here.

We are continuing to grow and hope to be able to service as many business as possible and they do need your help.  This is the best chance at saving small business across Canada and we welcome all program inquires.

Is the program really free?

Yes it is.  Thanks to our generous program sponsor, Rio Tinto there is no cost for the program.  We do recommend that you have a small budget for your first social media campaign (the we assist in creating and setting up) but inevitably, that is up to you.

The program is inclusive for the first year and includes

Custom, professional responsive website design (built on WordPress)

Custom domain and 1 professional email

Professional branding development

Ad creation and assistance with deploying Facebook advertising

1 year of free support (email or scheduled call) for the duration of your 1st year of the program.

Free access to bi-monthly webinars to keep you up to date and involved in your marketing.

What is the cost after the first year?

Our goal of the program is to assist small business long term.  After the first year of the program you will be given the opportunity to renew your hosting and site maintenance for $349.00 for the year.  That includes domain, 1 email, SSL (Security certificate)hosting, and maintenance of your website (ensuring security is up to date and we do manage any technical issues should you incur them).

You are also welcome to move your website to your own hosting (this will cost you the same) and you will need to either pay for management of be able to manage it yourself.  The non-profit renewal price is guaranteed for 2 years from the date of your program.

Why do you use WordPress?

We have been in business since 2007 and have experience with most of the website builders online today.  We chose WordPress for several reasons, predominately:

  1. It is a open source platform and means that you will always be able to find support for your website for a reasonable price.
  2. It is fully responsive.  Some builders are not (WIX is a perfect example).
  3. You own your website.  This is something we are passionate about.  You should always have control of your website.  Website builders (WIX, Shopify, Squarespace, etc.) are platforms that means you must stay on their platform and in turn, you must pay their fees if you wish to keep your website.  They have full control and you cannot move your website to another company and typically cost anywhere from $100 USD to $500 USD a year just for hosting (no management, no domain, no email).  They can in fact become very pricy and we are focused on the best value for your dollar as we believe your dollars should be investing in growing your business, not paying large corporations.

When properly maintained and managed WordPress is 100% safe.  It cannot be hacked and is used by 80% of all businesses on the worldwide web. WordPress also easily allows for growth of your business and additional features as you need.



Meet our 2020 Participants

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