How Google Can Connect Us with Inner-City Business Owners
Several weeks ago, Google.org announced a $10 million grant to support small businesses in low-income and under-represented communities. The grant will be deployed over a three-year period with the first installment of $2 million going to the American Libraries Association.
According to Kim Spalding, Google’s Global Product Director of Small Business Ads “67 cents out of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the local economy. Through our products like Search and Google Ads and Grow with Google, our initiative to create economic opportunity across the U.S., we’re committed to helping small businesses succeed.”
The donation from Google.org will help low-income and underrepresented entrepreneurs start new businesses via access to capital and training at their local libraries. The grant will also help libraries build their own entrepreneurship programs, including recommendations for better serving entrepreneurs from diverse communities and underrepresented backgrounds. The collaboration has already supported 130 libraries across 18 states and will continue to all 50 states.
There is a side benefit to this story that might be bigger than the story itself. Over the past 15+ years, I worked with inner city business owners while at Inc. magazine, and my own publication, Urban Success. We partnered with a Boston-based organization called ICIC – The Initiative for Competitive Inner Cities.
One of my biggest takeaways from the experiences listed above was that inner-city business owners feel disconnected from the surrounding metropolitan areas. At one of my Urban Success Business Boot Camps in NJ, I asked a group of business owners to tell me their biggest obstacles to success. A few of them said “How do we get people like you to come to our stores? How can we let you know about our restaurants, our wine stores, and the things we have to offer?”
It was eye-opening. I wish we had that boot camp today because I would tell them “Google!” If you want to connect with the surrounding areas or even with people halfway around the world, you need to have an online presence; customers need to find your business through search! People are constantly looking for new experiences, and unique items. Build out your website, create an e-commerce store, and take advantage of free social media to let the world know why they should shop your online store and visit your place in person. You can have local, loyal customers be your first brand ambassadors.
I applaud Google.org for supporting local business owners in low-income and under-represented communities. If their trainers and local libraries can help business owners connect to potential customers outside their communities, it could measurably change the economies of America’s inner cities. How’s that for a “side benefit?”