In June, as part of our Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), we gave 62 small Canadian businesses from coast to coast to coast $10,000 Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF) grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. Jo(e) Social Media Inc, based in Lacombe, Alberta and a member of the Lacombe & District Chamber of Commerce, was the recipient of one of the grants.
Established in 2012 by Jo Phillips and Joe Whitbread and, Jo(e) Social Media was one of the first exclusively social media agencies in western Canada. Since then, the company has grown every year and has a team of four full-time staff with a further 11 team members working part-time or on contract.
One of the company’s key initiatives is visiting schools, on a volunteer basis, to talk to students about the positive and negative aspects of social media. To date, Jo and Joe have spoken with more than 30,000 kids across Alberta. These conversations are what drove the creation of the Jo(e) Youth Creative in Lacombe.
Jo(e) signed a lease and started renovations for the Jo(e) Youth Creative (JYC) in December 2019. The JYC was supposed to open April 1, 2020 as a social enterprise with for-profit programs to support free youth programming. After extensive investment, renovation and relationship building, COVID-19 stopped the program before it could get off the ground. The centre couldn’t open, sponsorships fell through and the cost of the renovation came back on to the business.
Left with no other option, Jo(e) had to move into the new space without the ability to open it to clientele. While kids being in the space wasn’t revenue generating, it was game changing and was considered a greater loss than the loss of revenue that Jo(e) faced. During the pandemic, with school cancelled, most kids had more screen time than ever before and the need for support was even more important.
The JYC is a space designed to support the social media needs of children — from accessibility to mentorship, business building and for some, a safe space — without economic barriers attached.
The good news is that things started to open up over the summer. The health and safety protocols changed due to COVID-19, and the grant monies came in handy to purchase the necessary products for use by staff and clientele when the JYC opened. Over the course of the summer, 45 kids experienced the programs.
With little social media training available for any age group and with social media growing and morphing each day, the importance of social media education for both youth and adults is paramount. Without education about social media and the advantages of digital, people are left behind and/or they can become victims.
The pandemic has made Jo and Joe realize that the future of business will be much more based in the digital world, with even more need for training and understanding of the capabilities of social media and digital platforms.
Like true entrepreneurs, Jo and Joe, are motivated by stubbornness and competitiveness. The rapidly changing nature of social media — where new algorithms change platforms daily and platforms peak and plateau monthly — has, no doubt, helped them to keep their eyes on the prize as they have persevered through the challenges of COVID-19 and are now seizing opportunities that will be the foundations of Jo(e) Social Media’s future.