Fresh Initiative Aims To Boost Digital Presence For Small Black-Owned Businesses

·4 min read

Small Black businesses, like many small businesses overall, can always use new tools to help them grow and potentially generate extra revenue.

Now, they can gain such support and resources from the “NYC Small Biz: Open + Online,” a fresh initiative to help small businesses to take part in the growing digital economy. The effort was launched July 22 by the NYC Small Business Resource Network (SBRN).

The network calls itself a unique public-private partnership among the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the five borough Chambers of Commerce, NYC Department of Small Business Services, and the Partnership for New York City.

The new drive comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed and accelerated how consumers shop and buy goods by e-commerce. Experts contend that trend is most likely expected to keep rising moving forward, particularly with a growing number of people buying more items online.

Throughout the pandemic, brick-and-mortar businesses that lacked a digital presence and relied on foot traffic were at a disadvantage, the SBRN reported per a news release. The network claims it has worked to address that disparity by helping small businesses establish e-commerce capabilities, and as the economy begins to recover, Open + Online will widely and rapidly boost that effort.

The good news for entrepreneurs is the SBRN provides many services for free. They include website help, digital marketing guidance, social media strategy, and general tech consultations, to name a few. For restaurants specifically, no-fee services include general business strategy and financial planning. Another is help with operations management, including functions like HR, marketing, compliance and regulatory issues.

The SBRN, which is free to join, is open to small business owners within the five boroughs. Some 80% of the small businesses the network has reached are minority- or women-owned and 30% are Black-owned, an SBRN spokesperson says. Essentially, the Open + Online program aims to create a resilient small business community, helping them compete in the accelerated digital economy.

A greater digital presence could help smaller entrepreneurs scale. Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, reports that the share of New York City retail sales that occurred online rose to 21% this year from 13% in 2019. In the apparel market, the online share of sales grew from 34% to 57%, underscoring the need for small business owners to be able to compete across channels, data from a news release disclosed.

For its part, Open + Online reports its initiative will enable hundreds of small businesses to upgrade their web presence and expand e-commerce activity as they struggle to recover from pandemic-related losses.

Since launching in 2020, over 17,000 businesses from across the five boroughs have been reached through the SBRN. The network cites popular resources include marketing, finance, legal, accounting and business strategy. Restaurants, beauty, and retail have been among the top industries served. The SBRN was started last September in response to the crisis facing many of the city’s over 230,000 small businesses, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

The SBRN reports it is working in communities that have been difficult to reach by other mainstream programs. Most of the businesses seeking assistance have been minority- and/or women-owned with five employees on average.

“The pandemic has exposed many weaknesses and inequities in our economy, across the country, and especially in New York City,” Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation, stated. “We have the opportunity and obligation to help these businesses get back on their feet. Today’s expansion of the Small Business Resource Network will help address critical economic disparities by helping thousands of small businesses, particularly those owned by minorities and women, recover and thrive by ensuring they are better able to participate in the digital economy.”

Maria Gotsch, president and CEO of the Partnership Fund for New York City, stated, “These new digital tools will empower small businesses to compete and grow in this accelerated digital economy, creating a more resilient small business community and preserving the vibrancy of our neighborhoods.”

The program calls for independent web designers to build and upgrade websites. Entrepreneurs can gain expert guidance on how to maximize their new digital footprint. The services will be provided free to small businesses selected to the program, prioritizing minority, women, and immigrant-owned businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Some examples of Squarespace websites created during the program’s pilot phase include princessandheiress.com, africanqueenboutiquenyc.com, and parkasiabrooklyn.com. Several partners and individual donors provided financial support to help SBRN launch Open + Online.

Small businesses can apply to Open + Online at smallbiz.nyc on a rolling basis initially until September.

 

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