Gillian Forward and her daughter Mary Ellen Makhlouf are ready and waiting.
The mother-daughter duo behind Forward Creative, a branding and marketing agency based mostly in Wallace Bridge, along the north shore of Nova Scotia, are hoping to start building at least three new online stores for business in their area in the next few days.
And they’re not charging a thing for their services.
“I’ve been seeing lots of cries for help on social media, a lot of businesses are really struggling,” says Makhlouf, who works from an office in Bedford. “My mom, she was saying well, we need to do something, we need to support our community.”
So they posted on social media, offering to build online stores for Nova Scotia businesses free of charge, both to help the businesses get through the COVID-19 social distancing and to support the social distancing itself.
When they talked to Atlantic Business Magazine on Thursday, Makhlouf and Forward were getting ready to talk to their first potential free online store client: a coffee shop owner who’d been selling her roasted beans through direct messages on her company’s Instagram account.
“It’s a perfect time to do this,” Forward says.
Forward owns Forward Creative, and created the business concept with her husband, Michael Forward. A longtime entrepreneur, she opened the business after moving from Halifax to Wallace Bridge last year, where they live in an old renovated church.
Makhlouf, their daughter, has a long history in marketing and branding. She’s the team’s creative consultant and main website builder.
Makhlouf’s goal is to not just get a business set up to sell online during the COVID-19 precautions, but to build them something they can use as a working online store well past the period of social distancing.
“The economy is going to suffer and we want to do our part to make sure that everybody is not only getting through this, but coming out with their best foot forward,” she says.
The Forward Creative Team will even sit down with interested businesses who aren’t selling anything online yet and help them figure out if and how they could expand their operations to an online marketplace.
Makhlouf says there are small costs associated, like the cost of registering a domain name and setting up third-party payment processing, but everything else is honest-to-goodness pro bono.
“And we’re also supporting them in the process of setting those things up,” she says. “If they need us, we’re there.”