Entrepreneurship 102

The internet is no longer optional for prospective entrepreneurs.

According to BrightLocal, an online marketing agency, 92 percent of people search for local businesses online, with 69 percent doing so at least once per month. Thankfully, owners of any size business possess strategies for reaching that 92 percent, and several local business owners are willing to share some tips to help other entrepreneurs. 

Willie Mathis Jr.

 

Be social

In 2011, college student Willie Mathis Jr. noticed a lack of retailers selling fraternity paraphernalia despite Indiana being a hub for higher education. He began buying and selling fraternity clothing, eventually embroidering and creating the clothing himself. The side business grew into Perfect Apparel.

Mathis recommends staying active on social media, but staying active doesn’t mean making one dry post a day. It is about engaging with the online audience. Show them who you are not just what you sell. 

“Customers want to know your personal story,” Mathis said. “They want to know who you are, and the more they are in tune with you, the more they are in tune with your brand.” 

Mathis posts instructional videos on subjects such as how to embroider clothing. Such side content spreads the brand and makes it easier to find the business online. Business owners can even generate advertising revenue from side content such as vlogs if it’s popular enough.

 

Get help with your SEO

During her time as a missionary in Africa, Hattie Carlis promoted and chronicled her experience in a website, podcast, newsletter and vlog. Now Carlis, a graphic designer and digital marketing professional, helps other companies promote their brand at Carlis Design Studio. 

Carlis said business owners who don’t have internet experience should hire help, especially for search engine optimization (SEO), which helps search engines find and display a website easier. Without quality SEO, a website is an unrecognizable drop in an ocean. 

“Other than [SEO], Google doesn’t know who you are or what you do,” Carlis said. “If you don’t have SEO onto your site, embedded in there in some kind of way, the only way someone will find your site is if they know the name of your site. So that will limit it to your friends and your family.”

Many websites feature tags, words or phrases associated with the website that implement SEO. Carlis can add features that not only measure how well certain tags attract views but also discover and implement more effective tags.   

 

Acquire an online toolbox  

Before getting pregnant, Tahwii Spicer advised expecting parents about everything from A to Z. After she had her baby, Spicer wanted to stay in the maternity business, so she launched Eco Baby Co., an online retailer of eco-safe all-natural products for babies and mothers. In Spicer’s two years running Eco Baby Co. she discovered many useful online tools available to everyday entrepreneurs such as ShippingEasy, software that makes managing shipping orders easier and offers multiple affordable payment plans. The service is even free for businesses shipping 50 orders or less a month.

Spicer also recommends Convergo marketing software, which turns regular customers into repeat customers by collecting reviews and shopper outreach. For example, Spicer uses Convergo to identify customers who bought a particular brand and emails them about new products from that brand.

“Nine times out of 10 they’ll come in and at least look at the new product if not purchase it,” Spicer said. 

 

This article is part of an occasional series about entrepreneurship.

 

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

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