Latest News

Business Life of Husband and Wife Podcast - How to Create Content for Organic Growth

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Natasha, our Digital Service Squad member, was featured on Season 2 Episode 4 of the Business Life of Husband and Wife Podcast!


On the podcast Natasha discusses tips and tricks for creating content for organic growth. Her passion for helping small businesses drives Natasha; she joined the Community Futures Highwood team to help business owners in the community develop and implement practical digital tools to generate brand awareness and consumer engagement.


You can stream Natasha's episode on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Castro, and YouTube! Visit the Business Life of Husband and Wife Website to listen in!

Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Awards

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Community Futures Highwood had the honour of celebrating 4 members of our community with the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medals last night!

These commemorative medals are a tangible way to honour and acknowledge the significant contributions of individuals to our community.

A huge congratulations to our medal recipients Judy McMillan-Evans, Pamela Morgan, Orvella Small, and Verna Staples!

Marketing Tools for Business Owners

There are many affordable marketing tools that small business owners can use to level up their promotions! We have compiled a list of some of these tools that you can try to improve your marketing and brand image.



If you haven’t already heard of it before, Canva is a free web-based design tool that you can use to make absolutely anything. They provide tons of free templates to give you inspiration, and also offer the option to design something from scratch. With templates for logos, social media, documents, prints and more you can’t go wrong with this amazing website! Canava offers free tutorials and courses that teach you everything from how to use the platform, branding, design and marketing.


Cell Phone

Often the best tool for the job is one that you already have at your disposal, with technology constantly evolving, iPhones have become a great way to capture photos and videos for marketing. iPhones have made it easy to instantly point and shoot when an opportunity arises, but also allows for further utilization of the device to take stunning product photos. You can also elevate this tool using some of the other tools outlined below.


Ring Light

Ring lights serve as a complementary tool to your iPhone (or camera) by lessening shadows and diffusing light evenly across its subjects and elevates your look. If you are currently taking your own marketing photos, you know how hard it can be to find the right lighting without your shadow cast over your subject. There are many different kind of ring lights that you can utilize, including ones that clip on to your phone or computer, ones with built in stand and tripods. All are great options, depending on what you intend to use them for. Here are two that we found on Amazon:

Ring light with tripod stand

Clip on ring light



If you don’t get a ring light, we would suggest getting a tripod to start as it is a great way for you to go hands free when you are taking photos as they usually come with a Bluetooth remote you can use to capture images. This makes the process so much easier and allows you the freedom to rearrange items that are in frame! Here is one we found on Amazon:

60-inch tripod



The last item on our list can make the biggest difference, using a backdrop which may seem like such a small detail to some can completely transform your images. Consistency across product photos helps to elevate your branding and make your brand recognizable. The backdrops we have included in this article are plain white ones (and we have included a tablecloth as well because it is more affordable, and everyone has to start somewhere, right?) but feel free to opt for something that aligns most with your brand! You can switch it up for something that is hot pink, marble or even iridescent if that is more your style.

10x12 foot backdrop

Waterproof tablecloth

5 Types of Softwares all Business Need

Software programs are incredibly useful tools to help support your business. Below we have listed five types of software, as well as our suggestions. We are in no way affiliated with the companies listed below, and strongly suggest that you conduct your own research and use your discretion before committing to any one software.


  1. Accounting/Bookkeeping Software

Accounting software can ease the pressure that small business accounting usually brings. You can issue repeat invoices, send reminders to your clients and customers, and create profiles for them as well. Accounting software have the capability of generating reports to keep you on top of your cash flow, income and expenses. Having an accounting software can save you time on manually sending out payroll and allows for a streamlined process of managing your business’ finances.


We suggest Intuit QuickBooks

Why? QuickBooks makes keeping track of tasks, upcoming invoicing, and streamlining accounting activities simple and seamless. Not only is the program easy to use, but it is also relatively cheap in comparison to competing accounting software. QuickBooks is an extremely reliable software and works well with other software as well (such as many CRMs).


  1. Customer Relations Management (CRM) Software

If you deal with customers on a regular basis, you probably need a CRM software. CRMs help you manage and retain relationships with your customers and clients. CRMs will store contact data for your customers and keep them in one easy-to-use space. You can track where your customer came from, their transactions, and interactions. Understanding your customers buying habits and needs is essential to customer retention.


We suggest HubSpot

Why? HubSpot is extremely flexible when it comes to customization. You can create cohesive Calls-To-Actions for customers, keep their data stored in a secure place, and monitor actions that your customers make. HubSpot’s usability is another bonus, it is seamless and comprehensive. You can track where your customers are coming from before they even make a purchase! How much does it cost?


  1. eCommerce Software

Having an eCommerce website is a cost-efficient option when selling products online. Having your own eCommerce website can either supplement your brick-and-mortar store or allow you to sell without having to be a storefront! With low costs, eCommerce sites will also allow business owners to track where their customers are coming from, customer key demographics, and give you informative data on how your products are performing.


We suggest Shopify

Why? Shopify is perfect for an all-in-one streamlined eCommerce website builder. Shopify offers a wide variety of widgets and web plug ins to help support your sales efforts. Shopify offers a built-in web builder, CRM capabilities, and marketing tools.


  1. Email Marketing Software

Email marketing gives businesses the opportunity to stay connected to their customers while sharing key information on the services and products they are offering. Creating clean email campaigns creates credibility and can lead to more leads. The majority of email marketing software packages allow you to track important data, so that you can understand the attitudes, behaviours, and characteristics of your customers.


We suggest MailChimp

Why? MailChimp allows users to send seamless and high-quality emails to up to 2,000 customers for free. MailChimp allows you to customize campaign designs and has an easy drag and drop design center.


  1. Document Management Software

Document management software allows you to digitize existing paperwork and store digital files in one place. Having a good document software removes the need for endless filing cabinets and keeps all your important information in one cohesive area. Having a good software is also beneficial if you have employees or a team to work with and share information with. Organize your digital documents takes away the pressure of manually filing.


We suggest G-Suite

Why? Google’s free cloud-based document management software is a great option for small business owners. Through G-Suite you can share documents through Google Docs, create presentations through Google Slides, and create seamless shared spreadsheets through Google Sheets. G-Suite allows you to share documents with people within and outside of your company.

Digital Service Squad News Release

Digital economy program coming to southern Alberta

OKOTOKS Alta, (Jan. 12, 2022) – As one of the agencies delivering the Alberta Digital Economy Program (DEP), Community Futures Highwood (CFH) is looking for local small businesses looking to advance in the digital economy free of charge. Whether you are a small business owner starting to move from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘clicks and mortar’ or seeking help with growing your online marketing outreach, CFH is available to assist you in transforming your digital presence.

The DEP initiative is a part of Alberta’s Economic Recovery Plan and is designed to support the recovery of small businesses by providing free support with digital marketing and e-commerce. By offering one-on-one digital assistance tailored to the unique needs of each business, CFH’s Digital Service Squad (DSS) is there to assist businesses thrive throughout and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pressures and demands on local small businesses during the last 22 months, have been unprecedented. They have not just taken an economic toll but have also affected business owners on a very personal level. From the constant need to pivot and adjust their business model to staffing challenges and an increasingly challenging business climate it takes a lot to still be in business. With that in mind it is wonderful to be able to offer a hand up to these vital local businesses by providing another potential income stream or enhancement of an existing one, without having to charge for the service and create further stress. We hope to be able to work with a wide range of businesses – from those that have no website/social media presence or e-commerce capability, to those who have a digital presence, but want to fine-tune it,” says CFH Executive Director, Ursula Sherwood.
Applications for the DEP are open and will remain open until March 2023. To be considered for the program, head to to sign up and complete the initial digital assessment or contact CFH for more information and to set up a meeting.

About Community Futures Highwood

Community Futures Highwood is a non-profit organization with over 30 years’ experience supporting and assisting rural entrepreneurs with business solutions and investment in community economic growth within our region. For more information, visit our website

Want to Do Business with Government?

You are invited to our Procurement series

Session SEVEN:

Want to do Business with Government?

Business Funding and Support Programs

Now that you have the information to work with the Government... Lets find the Funding and Support!

What do you need to do?

What do you need to know?

This webinar provides information on:

IDEaS Program – Kris Ruiter

The DND IDEaS program is a $1.6B program to solve defense and security challenges for Department of National Defense.

Innovation Canada – Karla Peterson

From funding to expert advice to driving new collaborations, our flagship programs and services are designed to help businesses innovate, create jobs, and grow Canada's economy.

Canadian Intellectual Property Office – Marnie Fyten

Learn: Roadmap process to trademarks and get all your questions answered

Cyber Secure Canada – Nigel Russell

Introduction to Cyber security Environment. Understanding in the key to success.

Canada Revenue Agency SR&ED – Sameet Wasson

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program continues to support businesses conducting research and development in Canada,

Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada – Leah Gabretensae

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada facilitates the arrival of immigrants, provides protection to refugees, and offers programming to help newcomers settle in Canada.

News Release: Community Futures Highwood to Remain in Stockton Block Building

News Release
September 30, 2021

Community Futures Highwood to Remain in Stockton Block Building

Okotoks AB: After thoughtful consideration and recognizing the new market realities affecting businesses, amplified by the ongoing pandemic, the Community Futures Highwood (CFH) board have made the difficult decision not to move to the Arts and Learning Campus.

“The decision not to relocate was not an easy one, and certainly does not reflect the efforts of both the Town of Okotoks (Town) and CFH. The determination was made after reviewing the business case in light of the changing economic situation and ongoing impact of COVID-19,” said Ursula Sherwood, Executive Director of Community Futures Highwood.

“While we are disappointed that CFH is no longer able to be part of the Arts and Learning Campus, we completely understand and support their decision and wish them great success as they remain committed to serving our local business community,” said Jeff Greene, Town of Okotoks Community Growth & Sustainability Director. The Town will now seek tenants for the remaining space. For more information, please contact the Town at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CFH plays an integral role in supporting Okotoks and region businesses. The organization will continue to provide local entrepreneurs and businesses with access to programing, coaching and financing while remaining in the Stockton Block building. The building’s current lease between the Town and CFH will be renewed shortly.

Media contact:

Ursula Sherwood

Executive Director, Community Futures Highwood

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.       

403-995-4151 ext.4

Alberta Jobs Now Program

Alberta Jobs Now Program

Alberta Jobs Now program

Businesses and non-profits can apply for funding to reduce the cost of hiring and training Albertans for new jobs.

Apply Now


The Alberta Jobs Now program will provide up to $370 million to help private and non-profit businesses with job supports to get thousands of Albertans back to work.

Employers can apply for funding to offset the cost of hiring and training unemployed or underemployed Albertans in new or vacant positions.

This federal-provincial investment is the largest job training program in Alberta’s history. It will support our province’s recovery, help businesses re-open or grow their workforce, and give Albertans an opportunity to gain the skills they need in today’s job market.


Private sector businesses and non-profit organizations across all industries can apply for funding to reduce the costs of hiring and training unemployed or underemployed Albertans. Additional funding is available for hiring persons with disabilities.

Employers can:

  • apply for a grant to offset salary or training costs, or both, equal to:
    • 25% of a new hire’s salary up to $25,000 per employee
    • 37.5% of the new hire's salary up to $37,500 per employee with a disability
  • apply for up to 20 full-time new hires per intake period:
    • first intake: May 20 to August 31, 2021
    • second intake: September 15 to December 31, 2021
    • third intake: to be announced at a later date
  • choose to have payments issued in 1 or 2 payments:
    • 1 payment: up to 100% of the grant after new hires have been employed for 52 weeks
    • 2 payments:
      • half of the eligible grant paid when the new hires have been employed for 3 months
      • the other half paid when the new hires have been employed for 52 weeks

For more information, read the Alberta Jobs Now Program Application Guidelines

Support Local AB Directory

Why shop local?

Small businesses in Alberta make a big impact. Small businesses make up 95.5% of all the businesses in the province, supporting the economy in a big way and giving you plenty of local options to choose from. Shopping local is a great way to find unique businesses right in your own backyard and better still, supports hard-working entrepreneurs and small business owners in your community. 

Use the directory today and discover new Alberta businesses. 

Want to see your success story here?

Give us a call, send us an email, or drop in for a chat.

Contact Us

14 McRae Street
PO Box 1599
Okotoks, AB  T1S 1B5
P: 403-995-4151


Communities Served

Aldersyde, Blackie, Carmangay, Cayley, De Winton, Diamond Valley, Foothills County, High River, Kananaskis Improvement District, Lomond, Longview, MD of Willow Creek, Millarville, Milo, Mossleigh, Nanton, Okotoks, Priddis, Vulcan, and Vulcan County.