With the holiday season and Small Business Saturday on the horizon, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and New York City Department of Small Business Services teamed up with representatives from social media giant Meta on Nov. 16 for a roundtable discussion on how Brooklyn-based small businesses can utilize digital platforms and social media to gain new customers and grow their brands.
Local shop owners met with SBS commissioner Kevin D. Kim, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Randy Peers, and vice president of Meta’s Global Business Group Nicola Mendelsohn to discuss practical and personal ways they engaged customers through Facebook and Instagram, chiefly through the pandemic when most of their brick and mortar shops were closed.
Peers said mom-and-pop shops have relied more heavily on social media to connect professionally with their communities over the past few years — the chamber itself has had to use social media including instagram and Facebook to grow their presence.
“It’s a new marketplace and economic landscape and if you’re not digitally connected, leveraging social media beyond your website [or] if you’re not truly engaging in the digital marketplace, you’re going to fall behind,” he told Brooklyn Paper.
Mendelsohn and her team made special efforts to meet with the local entrepreneurs ahead of the holiday season. At least 25% of small businesses globally expect to make half their sales between October 1 and December 31, according to data gathered by Meta, so that three-month period is critically important.
“There’s no better ambassador to Brooklyn than the small businesses who have helped make it a world-class destination,” Mendelsohn said in a statement. “For many small businesses, the holiday season accounts for more than half of their annual sales, and Meta is proud to do our part to help grow and support them. I thank the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Small Business Services for their partnership as we work to make this holiday season a success for small businesses in New York City and across the country.”
Dozens of local businesses and business improvement districts are holding Small Business Saturday events on Nov. 26 in an effort to encourage Brooklynites to shop small as the holiday shopping season begins in earnest. Last year, Peers told Brooklyn Paper that many of the pop-up shops participating in outdoor marketplaces or holiday events had also launched online shops to woo shoppers into visiting them in-person or to make up for lost physical stores in the midst of pandemic shutdowns. Websites and social media became a “lifeline,” he said.
Alfonso Wright, a small business owner who opened Brooklyn Tea with his wife in 2018, considers events like today’s essential to the overall growth of local shops.
“I think small businesses always need assistance. Because we’re small, we’re also kind of fragile so any change in economics or society affects us in a big way, and quickly, so the more help we have the more we can go from small to medium,” Wright told Brooklyn Paper.
While Wright and his wife built their brand by traveling to various festivals and markets across the city, it was through social media they were able to double their sales throughout the pandemic. Their tea shop now has two Brooklyn locations and employs over 20 people.
“Meta has actually been super helpful especially through the pandemic … there’s a lot of education that happens, learning and networking with other businesses that are similar to you in size, scale or culture, which is just super helpful all the time,” he said.
With over 62,000 small businesses in Brooklyn, Peers said the Chamber is committed to the success of Brooklyn’s fast-paced and booming shop community.
“Collectively, we the community-based organizations that work with small businesses, we can learn the best practices, tricks of the trade as it relates to leveraging these platforms for commerce and then we can take that information and disseminate it to our small businesses and that strengthens this sort of overall ecosystem here,” said Peers. “We are in many ways, very resilient but we’re resilient because we could adapt. This is about helping our businesses adapt.”