In February of 2014, we gave a presentation at a Venture Forum Niagara event for business leaders and angel investors here in Niagara.
The preamble before we launched into our pitch was about the state of the industry we were targeting. One of the metrics we presented came from a study done one year earlier, commissioned by the Royal Bank of Canada and the Retail Council of Canada.
That study indicated that only 52% of small to medium sized businesses in Canada actually had a website, and of those, only 46% actually did any selling of product online.
This study gave us some confidence that the market for our website management system still had a lot of room to grow, and that we could help solve the lack of uptake in the small business segment.
When we presented our product and explained our business goals, many in the audience reminded us that this was a crowded field already, and that we would face some stiff competition. Since that day two years ago, many others have told us the same thing.
Then, this Saturday, I read an article in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Newspaper, that made this compelling statement:
“Somewhat amazingly for 2016, most of the city’s entrepreneurs don’t even have their own web presence.” This is according to Chris Rickett, the manager of entrepreneurship services for the city of Toronto economic development and culture division.
He went on to state, “Only 41% of small businesses have a website.”
WHOA – What?!
It has been two years since we made our presentation, and in Canada’s largest city, website penetration for small businesses seems to have declined. How can this be?
The same forces are acting on this business segment not utilizing a web presence as were two years ago:
Cost and Complexity.
Almost all of the articles I read on this subject have a common theme.
“If the small- and medium-sized business owners would just embrace technology, they could do more business online.”
“They just need to come into the 21st century.”
But is it really this chicken, or is it actually the following egg?
I think the blame lies elsewhere.
In my experience, the problem is not the small business owner who is slow on the uptake of new technology. The pain point is the lack of quality in the website design and management software available to those small business owners.
Cupcakes or technology?
When what you really excel at, and what your business is based on, is cupcake design, you don’t have the time to learn complex new technologies.
And let’s be honest: those DIY offerings tend to look, well... DIY. Hardly the professional image most businesses want to put forth.
Meanwhile, our business has grown at an annual rate of 100% for the past 3 years, and is accelerating.
How is that possible in such a crowded field, where apparently, website penetration is declining?
Could it be that all the small business owner really needs to launch a new website is technology that makes their business look sophisticated, but isn’t complex to understand and use?
Yep. We believe that’s all it takes.
And, that’s what we offer. Great design, support getting launched and once it’s all up and running, a simple piece technology to support small businesses in keeping their websites fresh.
So, maybe the 59% of small businesses with no web presence in Toronto should chat with us!
And, on another exciting note...
In the next couple of months, we will be changing our name and launching our software product as a stand alone, separate from our agency work.
We are excited to embark on this new phase in our company’s growth, and believe that even in this crowded field, there is a significant place for a competitor who is finally meeting the needs of the market we serve.