An afternoon-long Grow with Google event held at Iqaluit’s public library Nov. 9 was fruitful for Sheila Lumsden, who is preparing to launch her food business Sijjakkut with her fiance Johnny Flaherty.
“The Google workshop was amazing because I didn’t know the extent of how useful Google could be for a business. I thought it was just a search engine,” said Lumsden.
Google Canada offered three workshops Friday afternoon: get found on Google; introduction to emails, spreadsheets and presentations; and coding for kids.
Head of marketing for Google Canada Fab Dolan said the final count of attendees for the entire afternoon was roughly 80.
“What we try to do with Grow with Google is build programs for people of all backgrounds and at all stages. Some of it catered more to adults who are looking to re-skill and re-train themselves for small businesses and some are for young ones who are looking to code,” said Dolan.
Lumsden learned how to register her business with Google My Business, a free service which amplifies a business in Google searches. She plans on registering as soon as she’s ready to go live.
While Sijjakkut was recently incorporated federally, Lumsden and Flaherty now need to get a licence from the City of Iqaluit for a home-based food business. They also need a health inspector to approve their kitchen. But Lumsden feels pretty confident, since she received temporary approval when she catered the VIPs during Prince Charles’ and the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit a couple of summers ago.
“The idea for the start of our business, within our existing walls, is Arctic char sushi rolls and hot smoked maple char. Those have always been my two biggest sellers,” said Lumsden, who appeared on the popular Masterchef Canada in early 2017.
“You’re able to post a photo to your Google site and it will appear in the search. That kind of search doesn’t populate automatically. You have to register your business,” she said.
The example given was a business owner who added a photo of oysters.
“She posted it through her business site, saying ‘The oysters are in.’ So people can see the oysters are in and see the hours of her operation, and get some,” said Lumsden.
All this information appears on a Google search page. In addition, a business owner can see the search traffic and determine a peak search period, and adjust their hours accordingly. There’s also a feedback option, and the business owner can respond.
“And you can get an app as a business,” said Lumsden, adding there are many more features offered.
When asked about Internet speeds for the workshops, Dolan said he was pleasantly surprised.
“It’s what’s changed over the times we’ve visited Iqaluit. I’d say there’s a cost and an access issue we still need to work on. But the Internet services that we used in some of the main buildings, whether it was the Pinnguaq Makerspace or the library, and so on, were certainly adequate to do some of the fundamental things that we think are the core component of being on the web, which is being able to do basic searches, basic productivity through e-mail,” he said.
After the workshop, one of the Google representative spent some one-on-one time with Lumsden, and helped her secure domain names.
“It’s an Inuktitut word, our business name, but it’s so precious to me that I felt I needed to secure the domain names before somebody hijacked them.”
Lumsden now owns sijjakkut.ca and sijjakkut.com, and it’s set up so that anyone who mistakenly types in the dot com address is redirected to the dot ca site.
“Instead of having a mistake or having another business, possibly, in the world with the same name sijjakkut with different information,” she said.
Dolan says Google has a strong bond with Iqaluit.
“This is the third time that we’ve actually been there,” he said.
In 2012 Google came to town as part of an effort to modernize Google Maps in Canada’s Arctic. The company returned in 2015 for a program called Codemakers, a national initiative trying to get young kids to think differently about science and technology.
“More than perhaps any community in Canada, we’ve been most engaged with Iqaluit on so many different issues and have great partnerships there. Even this time was not a moment in time, but the beginning of something,” said Dolan.
In September, Google announced two $1 million grants as part of the Grow with Google initiative.
“Our funding and our grant that will be carried out in part by Canada Learning Code, and those (digital skills training) sessions will start (in Iqaluit) in the spring and run on a bi-monthly basis,” said Dolan.