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Vancouver-based vendors Eric Mourre and sister Marjorie at the Distillery Winter Village. Their business, Provence en Couleur Home Décor, was one of 22 to receive a $10,000 gift from Google Canada.Courtesy of Google Canada

Last month, Google Canada showed its commitment to supporting small businesses with an early holiday present for 22 business owners from across the country who were participating in the popular Distillery Winter Village.

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Vendors were introduced to Google Canada’s recently launched Holiday Hub, an online program available to all businesses nationwide, which provides free tools and services to help businesses grow.Thomas Bollmann

Before setting up their booths, the vendors were ushered into a venue at Toronto’s historic Distillery District under the guise of attending a mandatory health-and-safety briefing. Instead, they were handed gift boxes from Google Canada, each containing a $10,000 voucher to help pay for booth rental fees and other overhead costs.

Natasha Walji, managing director of Google Customer Solutions Canada, was on hand to present the gift. She paid tribute to the vendors, acknowledging “the sweat equity, love and dedication that goes into a small business.”

“You are the fabric that connects the community, the lifeblood that drives the economy for Canadians coast to coast,” she said, reiterating Google Canada’s commitment to supporting small businesses, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic years. “We want to help small businesses grow.”

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Holiday gifts came early for the business owners, who were visibly moved by the financial boost from Google Canada.Thomas Bollmann

Another gift, available for free to small businesses nationwide, is Google Canada’s recently launched Holiday Hub. The online program offers free tools to small businesses by increasing discoverability and engagement on Google Search and Maps. This allows businesses to drive more traffic to their websites as well as their brick-and-mortar locations.

As part of the Holiday Hub, businesses will learn how to stand out on Google Search and Maps, using a free Business Profile. With a Business Profile, you can customize your holiday retail hours and any special deals, add products to show shoppers you have what they need nearby, respond to customer reviews and highlight if you offer curbside pickup or delivery.

Another free Holiday Hub tool, Pointy, helps businesses manage online inventory, so consumers can see which goods are in stock and what may need to be replenished. Small businesses are also able to promote their products and services across Google with free listings. The tools, short instructional videos and additional information can all be accessed on the Holiday Hub site. In addition, Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE, powered by Google, helps small businesses set up e-commerce websites for free so they can sell their products online.

“More than 80 per cent of consumers search online before buying, so you have to be discoverable,” explained Walji. “Our tools can help boost online presence, navigate how to offer services and help with inventory.”

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Natasha Walji, managing director of Google Customer Solutions Canada, paid tribute to the small business owners: “You are the fabric that connects the community.”Courtesy of Google Canada

Small business owners wear a lot of hats, from producer to marketer to distribution manager, especially during the busy holiday season. Although entrepreneurs often have to squeeze in the time to research the benefits offered by Google tools, doing so allows them to become comfortable with the basics so they can build on them in the coming year, she said.

The financial boost the vendors received at the Distillery Winter Village was accompanied with key points about Google’s digital tools that could help them thrive in the future.

There were huge smiles and some [vendors] had tears in their eyes. Getting help from Google can ensure long-term success and that is huge for them.

Rik Ocvirk, vice-president of Distillery District Restaurants

For Rik Ocvirk, vice-president of Distillery Events, the event’s impact was immediately visible. “There were huge smiles and some [vendors] had tears in their eyes,” he said. “Getting help from Google can ensure long-term success and that is huge for them.”

“This gift is a game changer,” said Nicole Teschl, founder of Toronto-based eco-business Sow Sweet Greetings. Her recyclable greeting cards, which are available at this year’s Distillery Winter Village, are embedded with seeds that recipients can plant.

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Nicole Teschl (left) and Rina Teschl at the Sow Sweet Greetings booth. "This gift is a game changer," say owner Nicole.Courtesy of Google Canada

“There is a lot more we could be doing with our online marketing efforts,” she said. “This gives us a chance to learn about the tools. It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

And having the booth rental fee covered added another level of holiday cheer for her. “It takes away the stress of worrying about the cost of overhead.”

Eric Mourre, owner of Vancouver-based Provence en Couleur Home Décor, agreed. As a first-time participant in the holiday market, he was pleased to get the support for his booth filled with French lavender essential oils, infused soaps, lotions and candles.

“This gift is amazing! And I look forward to learning more about the digital tools,” said Mourre.

Business owner Jason Carvalho launched his Portuguese egg-tart bakery business, More Natas Please, on the opening day of the market. Starting the business, which offers door-to-door delivery throughout Ontario, was a dream that he’s never given up on, despite the challenges. He said that Google’s helping hand couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I’m feeling very emotional,” he said. “Knowing Google is supporting us this holiday season is great.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Google. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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