An in-language program, funded by Wells Fargo, helps bring brick-and-mortar into the digital world.
With a goal to assist brick-and-mortar businesses as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Center (OCIE SBDC) hosted by California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), has launched the Main Street Digital program. The program, supported by Wells Fargo, will help bring Orange County businesses into the digital age by developing their online profiles to attract and retain new customers.
“Our goal is to help brick-and-mortar retail businesses to create new online sales channels to grow their business and thrive,” said Manal Richa, CSUF SBDC director. “By arming them with tools and strategies to increase their digital footprint, we can really change the way they do business and increase both online and foot traffic.”
Starting August 2021, the first Main Street Digital program cohort – comprised of 8 small businesses – will take part in a three-week virtual training session where they will learn core concepts on how to leverage their digital assets to expand their business. “This program is a great collaboration between our city and OCIE SBDC as it will equip our brick-and-mortar businesses in downtown Santa Ana with the competitive advantage of expanding their digital presence. With these resources, our small businesses can attract more customers at a local and national and perhaps even an international level,” said Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento.
The first part of the program will focus on building a digital presence through Google, social media, and review sites, to name a few, while the second portion uncovers the unique paid and non-paid advertising channels available to small businesses. All sessions will take place in a group format and will be coupled with individual one-on-one consulting with SBDC consultants. The first cohort will be conducted in English, with additional cohorts in various Orange County cities taught in Spanish, Vietnamese, or Chinese (Mandarin) contingent on need.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated persistent and deep inequalities impacting small businesses owned by women, people of color, and businesses in underserved communities,” said Wells Fargo Community Relations Senior Consultant Linda Nguyen. “While some small businesses have weathered the pandemic with access to government relief, many minority business owners who have been disproportionately impacted, have not. To keep these businesses open, it is critical to find new pathways, like digital and online platforms, that drive customers into their local shops and keep them engaged. We want people to get to know the amazing businesses in their community.”
In April 2021, OCIE SBDC led a similar program supporting the bridal association businesses in downtown Santa Ana. Twelve business owners participated in the program, many of which saw a significant increase in customer traffic and sales. “I am very excited as I was finally able to sell some of my products online and I am finally able to show my exclusive designs online,” said Valentin Martinez, early program participant and owner of Nino’s Bridal. “A lot of people didn’t know what I did and there was no way for me to show how innovative my designs and creations were to people outside of Santa Ana. Now I can.”
The Main Street Digital program will soon expand to Garden Grove and other neighboring cities. Interested entrepreneurs should visit www.ociesmallbusiness.org or call 800-616-7232.
About OCIE SBDC Network
The Orange County Inland Empire SBDC Network is hosted by California State University, Fullerton, and funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. All programs are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information on OCIE SBDC Network, please go to ociesmallbusiness.org.