When the pandemic-related shutdowns started last spring, many small businesses feared the worst. Without the know-how to take their business online, they couldn’t see a way to generate revenue from behind a locked storefront.
It was during this fraught moment when the Institute of Business and Information Technology (IBIT) had a big award winning idea. These struggling firms could undergo a digital transformation that allowed them to survive and even thrive through the pandemic. In April 2020, the Small Business and Non-Profit Digital Transformation program launched with a small group of companies. To date, more than 65 businesses and non-profits have been transformed across industries as diverse as food service, fitness, and fashion.
For example, fitness trainer Saul Benamy, owner of Best Bodies Inc., needed to pivot to an online model. Even as people transition back to in-person fitness, Best Bodies continues to benefit from the tech upgrades Benamy got through the program.
These changes will make an impact going forward by enabling me to use the tools of blogging and social media to drive customers toward my new website, says Benamy.
Eileen Teti, owner of Hair Way to Beauty, needed a way to stay connected to her clients during the pandemic. Temple students swooped in to create a new website for her that’s easy to navigate.
My social media now includes an Instagram presence and a nicer-looking Facebook page, says Teti. These marketing channels will continue drawing new customers to her salon.
Small businesses like Best Bodies and Hair Way to Beauty are vital to the local economy. They also make an important social impact: Of the companies helped so far by the Small Business and Non-Profit Digital Transformation project, 74% have been woman-owned or led and 46% are led or owned by people of color.
Over time, the process has been refined into a 2-week agile-sprint model. A pair of students whose interests align with the selected firm work with an advisor on a bespoke digital transformation, including website development, ecommerce, search engine optimization (SEO), advertising, and in some cases, new digital business models.
By helping companies transform to meet today’s needs, the Small Business and Non-Profit Digital Transformation program offers a low-risk way for businesses to accelerate their post-pandemic economic recovery. The program is no less necessary today than when it launched. Given the way the crisis accelerated digitization across the board, it’s more needed by small businesses than ever.
In June 2021, the program received the Fox School’s IMPACT award for community engagement.