VOICES: Social media helped sustain small businesses during the pandemic

Editor’s Note: Thomas Suddes’ column will return next Monday.

As a black, female small business owner, reaching customers during the pandemic was a daily challenge. Before the pandemic, my shop, Jaeluxe, located in The Greene, was not just a boutique, it was a community gathering space. It was a place for women to visit, get caught up on life, and of course, shop. With the day-to-day uncertainty of the pandemic during those early weeks in March 2020 and a new environment of restrictions and health regulations, I desperately missed seeing my customers in person. I soon realized social media was a great way to connect and was key to my survival, and that of numerous small businesses.

If I have any tips to share with other small business owners who are trying to navigate the ever-evolving digital world, it is to keep educating yourselves in the online and social media space. Adopting a robust social media platform as a small business owner may seem daunting, but I encourage you to seek out trainings and stay up to date on new features. The tools on Facebook and Instagram for retailers, like Shops, allow the playing field to be leveled with larger brands without a huge budget.

It seems there are always on-going debates about regulation on social channels which could have a tremendous impact on our small businesses. I was recently invited to travel to Capitol Hill and was one of 20 small business owners who had the opportunity to discuss small business issues with Senator Brown’s office as a part of Meta Boost Gather 2022. Advocating together as entrepreneurs ensured the voices, concerns and frustrations of many small business owners were heard. During our meeting, we talked and shared the huge impact social media has had on our ability to not only run our personal business but remain competitive. It was powerful and meaningful to collectively share with his office one underlying message: we wouldn’t have survived the pandemic if it wasn’t for social media.

I thought the overall experience was insightful and impactful, and I really felt as if our concerns were heard. It was nice to know that we can literally reach out to their office at any time with any issues we have as small business owners which is very reassuring.

As social media evolves and we start to hear more and more about the metaverse, businesses will be asked to adapt again and evolve along with technological advances. Being able to shop, virtually, is the future. For small businesses to adopt this new frontier, they will have to be trained.

To my fellow business owners, I encourage you to educate yourself on the possibilities of the digital world. Continue to adapt as it continues to evolve. Get involved with other small businesses in your community, whether that’s through local Chambers of Commerce or other organizations and use your collective voices to advocate for small business issues. We had such a positive experience on Capitol Hill. The Senator’s office was open, friendly, and genuinely listened to our ideas. The experience left us with a positive impression that your voice can be heard and can have an impact.

April Hancock is the owner of JaeLuxe in Dayton.

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