PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

READOUT: THE STATE OF SMALL BUSINESSES AND STARTUPS IN THE DIGITAL ECONOMY

By at 2 August, 2021, 3:31 pm

BY KAREN KERRIGAN –  

On July 22, SBE Council hosted a virtual briefing: The State of Small Business and Startups in the Digital Economy.

The nation’s leading small business experts, policy leaders, advocates and small business owners discussed the growth of the digital economy under COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns, and the critical role technology played in helping small businesses and most Americans better navigate the disruption of the pandemic. Millions of entrepreneurs transformed their businesses and business models using digital tools and technology platforms.

How did COVID-19 transform the small business and entrepreneurial sector? What trends will stick in a post-COVID economy? What policies are needed to encourage the adoption of digital tools and the creation of new innovations that will help entrepreneurs and small businesses compete and thrive, and for startups to reach their full growth potential?

These questions – and more – were addressed during the briefing (recording and full summary coming soon!).

KEY POINTS:

Rieva Lesonsky, Founder & CEO, Grow Biz Media, and Co-Founder, Small Biz Daily

● Facebook is the fastest way to reach the most people.

● You can’t think of Etsy and Amazon as competition. It’s a tool. This is about where people are shopping. It’s about catching the attention of people who don’t know who you are.

● It was always a given before the pandemic that younger generations gravitated towards technology, that they are the ones shopping online. However, the fastest growing group of online shoppers in the last year is BABY BOOMERS. They previously weren’t shopping online, but now they won’t go back because it’s convenient

● I hope we don’t have these types of panels in five years. That people understand that technology is just embedded in every single thing that every single small business does. It’s about understanding that tech is there to help you. You can do it faster, easier. You can learn it quickly and do it cheaper.

Rieva recently recorded a new podcast with SBE Council on key digital trends that small businesses must know about and embrace. Listen to the informative podcast here.

Ramon Ray, Founder, Smart Hustle, and author of “Celebrity CEO”

● Technology and tools are half of the equation, you need the mindset for business growth.

● See how you can serve your consumers authentically.  Consider: what do I have, how I can serve them?

● Customer experience is everything.

Sarah Kelsey, Owner, Rhinestone Lipgloss, Wapakoneta, Ohio

● Technology allows us to find our clients and meet them where they are. I started my business on Facebook with $85.

● Realize the value of Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, and TikTok. Shopify has been a lifesaver, phenomenal customer service, and saves us money. They have filled a gap, which has allowed for scaling.

● Anyone [business owners] who is resistant to tech in any capacity will die a slow and awful death in the current climate.

● I want to use whatever will help our clientele have a better experience. I only see technology as a positive. Whatever the next big tech advancement is, I want to use it.

Jeff Farrah, General Counsel, National Venture Capital Association (NVCA)

● Day in and day out, regulators are hearing from large companies, those who can afford lobbyists. The process is skewed towards the consideration of incumbents. They need to consider the environment that needs to exist for future companies; more should be done to consider how to create the companies we need in the future.

● On Antitrust Policies being considered: There will be “collateral damage that comes down on startup economy.”

● There’s a narrative that’s taken hold that corporations are playing Pacman and gobbling up smaller companies that see them as long-term threats, buying them before they become competitors This isn’t the reality in the marketplace.

● The politics of populism is taking over.

Raymond J. Keating, Chief Economist, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

● Technology has boosted sales – opened up communications with customers – marketing and advertising, improved productivity.

● We’re heard about the evil of big tech. As an economist, I don’t see that aligning with reality.

● Policy is “regressing on the antitrust front.”

● If we take the four big targets, these are four U.S. companies that are global leaders. We should be celebrating this. Yet, we’re trying to undermine their success.

Adam Kovacevich, Founder and CEO, Chamber of Progress

● Technologies are used by hundreds of millions of people every day. Creators, creative institutions, entrepreneurship, and tech all benefit. It’s a win-win: These platforms offer tools and services, which small businesses and creators take advantage of.

● Democrats and the House Judiciary Committee are working on legislation to keep Amazon and Google from having a toolkit with diverse offerings, lobbied for by other tech companies. Big Tech incorporates their tools in a range of products to keep these services free or cheap. These free offerings would be prohibited under antitrust bills – these are critical for small companies that can’t afford these efforts otherwise.

● There will be negative effects on small companies and community members who use these services to reach their audiences. There’s a desire to crackdown on the biggest companies, but there will be HUGE collateral damage on small businesses.

● Some political actors want to keep startups independent, to never be acquired. It’s not the role of government to tell them they should be permanently independent.

● We should actively encourage debate over what particular problems there are for government to solve. We’re in a phase in the tech policy debate where there are extreme reactions, not targeted solutions.

Barbara Weltman, Founder, Big Ideas for Small Business®

● Rules for independent contractors, rules for employers, what we thought were settled, are now in limbo. The rules continue to change and become more complex. This is challenging to the entrepreneurial environment.

● If Amazon were no longer able to carry my products, there would be a direct impact on my business. If they can’t use prime or fast delivery, there would be a huge impact on small businesses, their bottom lines would take a direct hit.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

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