There is no way to overstate the value of technology in today’s business landscape. It connects business owners in real time to its customers, supply chain, bottom line and now, for many, its employees. It allows businesses to be nimble and responsive like never before. It has implications on every aspect of an operation, and for every function there are seemingly hundreds of tech solutions. Here, five small business owners share what they have found to be the software, platforms and applications that best support their business needs.
Pam Machenheimer, Yvonne Ballard & Katie Busemeyer, designers, Algin Furniture
Who we are: A Cincinnati-based furniture and art retailer offering interior design services and specializing in mid-century modern reproduction, vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces.
There are several tech tools that have been essential to servicing our customers. Facebook is huge for us and we use it daily to connect with and update our customers by showcasing promotions, posting arrivals of new items and educating customers on new products and our safe pickup and delivery procedures. The feedback Facebook offers is invaluable.
Recently our designers have had a new opportunity to assist our clients through virtual design consultations. We are three distinct brick-and-mortar stores all under the Algin Furniture umbrella: Algin Retro, a custom, residential shop with mid-century modern vibes; Urban Timber, where customers design one-of-a-kind wood statement pieces; and Algin Office, where our qualified designers assist businesses with space planning and a variety of commercial-grade, stylish, affordable and durable furnishings. Our individual websites have allowed our customers to search, compare and purchase from the safety and comfort of their homes and we can now draw customers from a wider radius. Using various tech tools has created a sort of hybrid opportunity for us, which has been a real lifesaver during these challenging times. Follow Algin Furniture on Facebook: @AlginRetroFurniture.
Who we are: Lawrenceville, New Jersey-based bakers of small-batch, made-from-scratch cookies available for order online.
I had a very precise vision for my business. Knowing that technology would be key to its success, and understanding that isn’t one of my strengths, I established a team of very talented professionals and collaborated with them to bring about the development of my “brand” and a website that encompasses the aesthetic, nostalgic style and fun “Aunt Cookie” represents.
It began with my photographer who introduced me to the Craft Industry Alliance. Through joining that group, I identified my web designer and graphic designers. Since I am not a brick-and-mortar store, Shopify was configured to be my best choice for online sales. Zoom is the most efficient way to meet with my team (located in Connecticut, Idaho, Japan, Texas and New Jersey) to inspire each other, share ideas, and stay on track. I utilized Trello to keep us connected and cohesive.
My electronic newsletter, “The Cookie Chronicles,” keeps readers up to date with my community outreach program, “Bake It Forward,” as well as what’s going on in the bakery, like exciting flavor offerings and ideas for cookie gift-giving. I have a presence on Facebook and Instagram. Starting a small business during COVID has definitely had its challenges. It’s been a journey filled with the undulations of frustrations and victories, but ultimately, I’ve learned that with commitment to a vision, a good team and the help of technology, a thriving business can be built during this unusual time. Follow Aunt Cookie, Taste the Love on Instagram: @AuntCookieBakes.
Valerie Cooper, principal & corporate art consultant, Picture That LLC
Who we are: Stamford, Connecticut-based consultants and procurement of art solutions for facilities looking to enhance the aesthetics of their space.
There are four tech tools that are essential for small business success, allowing us as owners to be mobile, work virtually and to always have our business in our hip pocket — which is exactly where we want it to be.
First, all owners should be equipped with an accounting program like QuickBooks to manage the financial infrastructure of the business and monitor cash flow in a real-time fashion. Equally important is the ability to take the pulse of key financial indicators, specifically receivables and payables, revenue and expenses.
Second, a mail/contacts/calendar software program like Microsoft Office 365 is essential for time management and document creation. In addition, Microsoft Teams is a component of 365 and integrates well to host live meetings where screen-sharing and document integration is essential. I have discovered that a customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce is valuable for tracking leads, customer interactions and all facets of the sales pipeline process.
Finally, utilizing a livestream app is critical, especially as we experience the COVID-19 pandemic. The ease and fluidity of Zoom’s livestream features is a huge asset in bringing people together in large groups or in small breakout rooms if you need subsets. Zoom is borderless and non-discriminatory from an accessibility standpoint, be it attending a business meeting or an art gala. It’s unifying in numerous ways. Follow Picture That on Twitter: @PictureThatLLC.
Who we are: Manufacturer of organic, nutrient-packed burgers, “dark magic chili” and “forbidden breads” made with a focus on optimal health and well-being based in Mt. Royal, New Jersey.
As the owner of two online businesses, I have utilized various technology tools to build my brand and increase customer awareness. Shopify, Etsy, Instagram, Facebook, POD partners, Fiverr, YouTube and Audible are my absolute must haves. I am a firm believer that there has never been an easier time to start an online business due to the wealth of tech tools available at the click of a button.
I also love the idea of taking the tasks that you may not excel at or do not have experience in and handing them off to freelancers from Fiverr who specialize in the areas that you do not. That’s technology at its finest and its absolutely worth it. Follow We Are SuperFoods on Instagram: @SuperFoodsNJ & Facebook: @SuperFoodsNJ.
Who we are: A Los Angeles, California-based retail shop specializing in vintage and designer collectible and archival clothing as well as offering studio services to motion picture professionals.
Since March, I’ve been a true “solopreneur” working out of my consignment shop, The Curatorial Dept., seven days a week. I’ve relied primarily on technology for sales since foot traffic dropped off a cliff after stimulus payments ended. I have an Etsy shop where I sell vintage clothing, a Poshmark page featuring more contemporary pieces and a Shopify website to house vintage and designer items in one place.
I have a beginner tech skill level, so the site is a work in progress, but it does the trick. Most of our regulars use the primary website to purchase — which is best for business since Etsy and Poshmark take a percentage. However, I still think it’s important to have the exposure of the established sites and apps as we continue to build brand recognition.
The website is connected to Instagram so people can simply click through to purchase, and recently I’ve been doing Instagram livestreams as part of “A Current Affair,” a high end vintage show (typically held in person in NY and LA pre-COVID). This way I can share my vintage knowledge, offer some trend forecasting and create outfits for people in a more connected way.
There’s definitely been a lot of pivoting, but it’s forced me to explore new approaches, and as a result I’ve connected with collectors around the world who may not have found us otherwise. Follow The Curatorial Dept. on Instagram: @curatorial_dept & Etsy.
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Event Recap: Digitizing Your Business
Watch the replay from our latest Roadmap for Rebuilding event, where the panel discusses how small businesses can incorporate automation and AI into their daily operations.
Published November 06, 2020