California Is Hooking Small Businesses Up With Free E-Commerce, Online Marketing Help

The state has announced measures to support small businesses, which are expected to help Black-owned shops like Richmond’s Natrully Herbs, above, stay competitive in tough economic times. (Richmond Pulse file photo)

By Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he wants to help small businesses. Combined, they are a major economic engine in the state. He wants them to get online quicker and expand their markets to reach new customers in cyberspace. This is as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hammer their bottom lines and change the way we shop. 

To that end, the governor declared July 2020 “California for All Small Business Month” in a proclamation issued July 8. 

“With local businesses across the state working to meet unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, California for All Small Business Month is an important time to recognize their essential contributions to our state, and each do our part to help California’s diverse small businesses recover and thrive,” reads the proclamation. 

African American business owners and advocates across the state are optimistic. The much-needed assistance Newsom has announced in a time of crisis, they say, will enable them to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global marketplace. 

“95% of the world customers are outside of the United States. As small businesses learn to pivot as a result of the COVID pandemic, it is imperative that they have the online presence and access to capital to reach those potential clients,” said Gene Hale, president of the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce. “ Supporting local businesses will help stimulate those communities and invigorate job growth.” 

The Small Business Month proclamation coincided with the start of “Calling All Californians: #ShopSafeShopLocal,” a new campaign the governor’s office is leading. 

The #ShopSafeShopLocal campaign encourages shoppers in California to help small businesses operate safely during the pandemic. It also provides small business owners with resources to help them improve their online presence, including free website development and digital marketing. 

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development has partnered with leading tech companies in the state, including Google, eBay, Square and Yelp, to provide services to small businesses, including free online advertising, free websites, and COVID-19 relief. They will also connect California businesses with under 750 employees to shipping companies that can help them set up e-commerce deliveries. 

“Local has taken on a new meaning and California’s beloved small businesses need our help now more than ever,” said Isabel Guzman, co-chair of the Small Business Subcommittee and Director of the state’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, in an Op-Ed she co-authored with Sarah Friar, co-chair of the Small Business Subcommittee and CEO of San Francisco-based Nextdoor. The Press Enterprise, a Riverside County media outlet, published their statement. 

Nextdoor is a San Francisco-based company that provides a hyper-local social networking platform to connect people with each other and to businesses and resources in their community. 

“Supporting nearby stores, business owners, and local employees, as they modify operations to slow the spread of COVID-19, is an essential commitment to our community,” Guzman and Friar wrote. 

In addition to resources from business partners, the #ShopSafeShopLocal campaign’s website includes links to state and county industry guidance, free business consulting, and the California Manufacturers and Technology Association’s personal protective equipment marketplace. The online portal links California businesses with COVID-19 safety equipment. 

“California’s small businesses are adapting to the new marketplace, integrating technology at higher rates than ever, developing creative ways to connect with clients digitally and repurposing to serve their communities with innovations that meet the moment,” said Newsom. “California remains committed to helping all of our diverse small businesses become more resilient and thrive.” 

There are nearly 4 million small businesses in California. In good times, they make up over 99% of all businesses in the state and employ nearly half of the state’s workforce — over 7.1 million people, according to U.S Small Business Administration’s 2018 numbers. 

Before the pandemic, across the United States, African American and Latino women-owned businesses were experiencing the fastest growth, according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau data. 

But COVID-19 is presenting new financial and operational challenges, especially for businesses owned by African Americans and other ethnic minorities in California. 

“According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, in the last 4 months, there has been a 15% drop of active business owners across the nation,” Guzman and Friar shared. “That decrease is nearly double for Black-owned and operated businesses at 26%, and at 19% for Latino, 21% Asian, and 25% immigrant. 

The governor also emphasized the importance of maintaining social distancing protocols while shopping. 

“Critically, amid the ongoing emergency, we must all do our part to keep small business employees, owners, and others safe by wearing face coverings when we go out, practicing safe shopping and following public health protocols.”

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