Small Business British Columbia launches a platform to help businesses thrive.

Time to read: 6 minutes

Running a small business comes with its own unique challenges - including access to information, tools, and resources to achieve their long-term goals.

"There are over half a million small businesses driving 98 percent of our economy in British Columbia," said Joshua Ludgate, COO at Small Business British Columbia (SBBC), which was founded to bridge that gap. From starting a business, to building resiliency and long-term growth, SBBC helps British Columbia’s entrepreneurs grow successful and sustainable businesses through access to expert business advisors, educational and professional resources, and community events.

SBBC had already been focused on evolving their products and services to equip entrepreneurs with the skills needed to thrive in our digital world. When COVID-19 hit, a pivotal shift was required in how they provided them. "We've always been very active gathering small businesses together in-person and bringing in community partners and service providers to support this community," said Ludgate. "Showing up and engaging is a real, tangible action small businesses can take to reinforce their journey. That's a big thing for us."

“Like most of the small businesses SBBC serves, the pandemic necessitated a quick pivot,” said Ludgate, "We had to use and distribute resources in a different way to create the same connectivity."


SBBC needed to respond to rapidly changing community needs securely and flexibly.

“We struggle with resource constraints, but not ambition or talent. The craft is trying to balance those two and find a way through it,” said Ludgate.

SBBC knew that British Columbia's small businesses would be one of the largest drivers of rebuilding provincial economies from the effects of the pandemic. “We have to self-generate revenue in order to maintain the level of services we think our community needs,” said Ludgate. "Like many businesses, we knew we needed to adapt." The SBBC team took this as a call-to-action, and when asked by Provincial and Federal government partners to support a response to the challenges of COVID in our community, we seized the opportunity. SBBC developed and deployed a program with clear objectives:

  • Cut through the confusion by acting as a trusted information gatekeeper to help keep the community up-to-date on the programs and supports available and confident as the situation moved quickly, getting core content to small businesses fast.
  • Create access to a grant program to help small businesses quickly access recovery funding.
  • Identify a community of service providers - who were also small businesses - who could be matched to provide needed expertise.

To SBBC, it was clear they needed an adaptable system that could facilitate the growing complexity of their mission to provide a single source of truth in their data. They must be scalable as needs evolved - and they needed it quickly. "An off-the-shelf solution wasn't going to solve our problem," said Ludgate.

An additional factor was security. Participating in a government program meant requirements when it came to the technology tools they could use, so SBBC would need to work with a provider who had already passed government assessment. "We’ve been serving this community for over 20 years," said Ludgate. "And we understood that everything was aligned for us to have an impact, create opportunities, create employment, and keep stable. And that was massive."

Here's how they did it.


SBBC uses the cloud to connect the community to what they need - and each other.

SBBC knew they needed an implementation partner, so they turned again to Belmar Consulting Group with whom they had done a previous project. Together the team deployed an occupational licensing system on Salesforce Service Cloud, hosted in the Salesforce Canadian data centre. It is an online, automated, secure, self-service platform that provides SBBC with the tools needed to connect small businesses to resources, subject matter experts, and more.

Identifying a need: When a business owner reaches out for help, they are invited to create a profile and apply for relief funding via the SBBC website. They're then guided through a series of questions, like their type of business and geographic region, in order for the application to be considered for approval.

Managing cases: Once an application is submitted and deemed eligible, Service Cloud captures that information and creates a record in the system. The record then notifies an advisor at SBBC with a curated list of service providers, in the applicant’s geographic region, that could help support their recovery process.

Scaling service delivery: Integrated reports and dashboards give the team the insight they need to optimize workflows and keep stakeholders informed in real-time. “It was a switchboard for managing and understanding where clients were at any given time," said Scott Billows, CEO at Belmar Consulting Group.

Creating connectivity: Automated check-ins acted as a dual-radio trigger to allow the applicant to confirm services had been received and to allow payment to the expert. The service provider would then upload their invoice into the system, which would perform the necessary checks and make the payment.

"We were able to facilitate the goal of the recovery grant program, which was getting professionals in the community to help businesses develop a plan to build back their business, hopefully better and even stronger than it was before COVID-19," said Ludgate.


SBBC can scale to support small businesses today and tomorrow.

"They needed a system up and running in 30 days or less, and we were ready to do what it took to make that happen,” said Billows.

During this time, SBBC processed 19,000 payments to small businesses or small business service providers. They engaged over 1,250 small business providers (think accountants and lawyers) and managed 45,000 phone calls from the community seeking information, guidance, and support. Overall, SBBC distributed over $20 million in grants to the small business providers and the Province of BC distributed several hundred million dollars back into the community overall.


"The tools worked. The team worked. And we were able to scale because we had the infrastructure," said Ludgate. “The chance to have an impact on the organizations we work with is immensely rewarding. Serving the community is truly our biggest driver."


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