Building the myNiagara Online Community Platform – Lessons Learned Along the Way

1) Social Entrepreneurship while Valued is Largely Misunderstood

The multitude of definitions that exist for social enterprise have served to make the term more of an exercise in academic understanding than a rallying cry for a movement. As a society we embrace enterprising Non-Profits who create businesses to help fund their operations and we applaud For-Profit businesses that operate according to socially responsible principles.

However, there is a continuing void in Ontario regarding the creation of alternative business structures that may be better suited to facilitate social-purpose entities such as our community platform. The recent creation of a new category of share capital corporations in British Columbia, known as a “Community Contribution Company” (C3) is a good harbinger that the winds of change will soon flow east in Canada.

2) A Social-Purpose Business demonstrates Altruism in Action

The driving force behind our community social platform is the belief that everyone who participates benefits from the opportunity of having a common audience to share their messages with.

The amount of time that we currently invest to post and promote community content is a labour of love. Our ultimate goal is to generate sustainable revenue so that the future operators of our sites can earn a living wage and continue to deliver our services for the greater good of our community.

3) Reciprocity is a Learned Behaviour

One of the absolute keys to growing our network is the concept of ‘sharing #LocalLOVE’.  We encourage our community to shout out about their local experiences and facilitate posting of unsolicited customer testimonials in support of our local businesses.

We recently introduced a ‘How You Can Help Us’ Tip Card for the various Non-Profit groups that receive complimentary promotion via our community calendars, newsletter and social media mentions. It has been an interesting learning curve to realize that it is necessary to provide direction about how best to reciprocate and participate as a partner in our community building initiative.

4) The Digital Divide clearly exists with our current Generation of Small Business Owners

It has been our experience that the majority of established businesses do not have a fully developed online strategy or an adequate budget set aside to invest in digital marketing. The flip side of this conundrum is that young start-up entrepreneurs who understand how to “do” their own social marketing are reluctant to pay to advertise and promote their content via local online networks.

5) Passionate Idealists are Catalysts for Change

Although we have faced many challenges implementing our collaborative vision our commitment to inspiring a common social platform in Niagara is unwavering.  Every thank you that we receive – and there are many- fuels our desire to improve our level of service so we can attract more partners to expand our network to include all of myNiagara Online.

6) Community Development happens despite the Status Quo

We are in awe of the many incredible community-building initiatives that exist within Niagara and are keenly aware of the struggles change makers face everyday. It may seem trite but we’ve learned that patience is indeed a virtue and there can be no experience of change without the existence of the status quo.

7) Connecting Positivity attracts and inspires more Positivity exponentially

The launch of has solidified our confidence in the value of our platform as a means to communicate civic pride.  It has been our great joy to participate in the #ItsAllWellandGood movement and play a role in supporting the positive, collaborative voice that is emerging in the Rose City.

8) Your Tribe is your Lifeline

We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our Community Sponsors, Partners, Contributors, Subscribers and Social Followers. We know that we are not alone in our belief in the power of connectivity to improve the quality of life in Niagara. Thank you sincerely for your willingness to share your #LocalLOVE and be part of our myNiagara Online collaborative adventure.

Article by Cathy Berkhout-Bosse, Community Manager of myNiagara Online and Real Estate Broker, Team Berkhout Bosse at Remax Welland Realty Ltd.

Our Family of Niagara

My Musings on Mother’s Day 2012

One of the key descriptives utilized to characterize the Niagara Economic Summit this past week was the term “regeneration”.  The symbolism contained within this word is certainly fitting for the transformative phase that is currently happening within our Niagara Region.

In a biological sense, regeneration is a process of organic, systematic recreation at the cellular level. Similarly our Niagara cultural economic and political structures are currently transitioning themselves fundamentally at the grassroots community level.

New communications mediums such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linked are creating impactful opportunities for opinion sharing, vetting of ideas and ultimately consensus building. Emerging community leaders are finding voice and peer support that is unprecedented compared in the traditional elitist networking models of past generations.

The diversity of knowledge and talent pool that is rallying among the ranks of the presumed “silent majority” in Niagara right now is astounding and indeed, inspiring.

As a Mother and second generation family business entrepreneur, the term regeneration also conjures up parallels between family dynamics and the need to effectively mentor the succession of our next generation of leaders.

I believe most of us would agree that one of the fundamental qualities of a good mother is the ability to treat each child as an individual. We teach our children that their ideas are valuable and care about their point of view. In turn, they feel supported and empowered.

Equally important, is the need for us to lead by example. By having a firm belief system and demonstrating our commitment to authenticity we earn our child’s respect and appreciation.

The regeneration of Niagara will continue to evolve much like families learn from and adapt to each others strengths and weaknesses. The blossoming emergence of a wider diversity of community leaders is a phenomenon to be encouraged, facilitated and embraced.

Are we making progress in Niagara? The answer depends on who y’all are listening too.


Cathy Berkhout-Bosse

Community Manager, myNiagara Online Community Platform

Broker, ReMax Welland Realty Ltd.

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If you are looking for anything in Pelham we invite you to make your localized search engine. Our social enterprise delivers continually updated, internet exposure to all sectors of our local community – business, non-profit groups, service clubs, sports organizations, farms, churches, schools, artists- you name it – it should be here.

My co-founding business partner, Melissa Wells and I began building the MyPelham community site in November 2009 in order to create a fully inclusive on-line environment where all community groups could share content and attract a common user base. In turn, all participants benefit by having the opportunity to cost-effectively promote their events, services and sales offers to a our growing local internet audience.

We are thrilled by the response that we have received from our local community. We now have over 50 business sponsors, more than 40 non-profit groups and several local bloggers actively submitting content.

Our weekly e-news is distributed every Monday to our 1,700 person (& continually growing) subscriber list. CLICK HERE NOW to review our past issues and register to receive your own copy delivered weekly to your personal in-box.


Over the past two years our community website has developed to become a comprehensive on-line source of information about all aspects of life, work and entertainment in the Town of Pelham. also provides promotional support to Pelham area businesses and organizations via social media. Our Facebook page serves as a free resource for local community members to share links and Melissa and I also actively utilize our @MyPelham Twitter profile to promote local events and the sales offered by our business sponsors.

One of our primary long term goals for is to create a sustainable, marketing resource that actively collaborates with other Niagara regional initiatives. is now linked with Tourism Niagara, Niagara Economic Development Corporation and MLS-Niagara. As the marketing strategist for, I also proactively interact with other regional organizations such as the Tourism Partnership of Niagara, Social Media Club Niagara, Climate Action Niagara, Niagara Original Brand Advisory Committee, Niagara Escarpment Commission, and Brock University to further enhance opportunities for future partnerships.

From Day One, we stated that we were not simply creating a website. We have established a social enterprise that provides long term economic development and tourism benefit to our Town. Our intention is to generate sufficient advertising revenue to function as a self-sustaining entity that limits the potential tax burden of Town promotion.

At this time, Melissa and I would like to express our deep appreciation for all the community members who have supported our efforts throughout the past two years. We are excited to embark on another year of collaborative community growth and new development opportunities.