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Business accelerator program expanded with support from Rio Tinto

Bryanne White, owner of Wild Roots Flowers & Gifts in Burns Lake.

An award-winning business accelerator program designed to help local Canadian businesses grow their online presence has been expanded with support from Rio Tinto.

The First Step Business Accelerator program was first piloted in the fall of 2020, in partnership with the Village of Burns Lake. Seven business owners participated in the three-step course offered by Fresh Pixel, a Vancouver-based branding and design company. Through the program, they learned how to manage their websites and build their online presence, increasing their digital exposure and allowing them to grow their businesses online. They also had access to professional assistance for a full year.

Rio Tinto committed $11,000 from its COVID-19 Fund to finance the pilot, which won an Economic Recovery and Resiliency Award from the British Columbia Economic Development Association in March 2021. The company is now contributing an additional $80,000 to roll out this initiative in Canadian communities where it operates. The sponsorship will enable another 100 businesses to participate in the program free of charge.

“The purpose of The First Step program is to assist small businesses by giving them the tools they need to grow and expand online,” said Angelique Giles, Fresh Pixel CEO, in a news release. “The program provides full support, including professional websites and advertising campaigns to build each business’ online presence and gives them the confidence to move forward in the digital world.”

Bryanne White, the owner of Wild Roots Flowers & Gifts, who was part of the first cohort of the program, said: “I wish every business in town would take this course. The course is helpful on several levels but for me, it bridged the gap between the digital world and my business. Having a professional website and social media presence will separate your business from the hobbyists and this course will help you get there. No matter your skill or comfort level, there is value in this program.”

Rio Tinto BC Works general manager Affonso Bizon said: “Rio Tinto is committed to supporting economic recovery in the communities where we operate. We are very happy to expand this business accelerator program to consolidate jobs and small businesses across Canada, following the success of our pilot here in British Columbia. We hope this initiative will have a positive, lasting impact on local economies.”

To learn more about The First Step Business Accelerator program or to apply, visit: www.thefirststep.ca/apply.

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