|Jim Sweida, president of Blue Morning Gallery in Pensacola (brown jacket) takes a moment to discuss his business with Rep. Matt Gaetz, myself, and representatives of various Internet companies on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 in Pensacola|
Today was interesting. The event was a "small-business crawl" through several different downtown Pensacola businesses. In attendance, Representative Matt Gaetz, officials from Amazon, Google, Facebook, the Internet Association (trade group based in Washington DC), numerous members of the local press, the Chamber of Commerce, and myself.
|Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks with Bluejay's Bakery owner|
their business. According to the owner, Justine, she uses Facebook and quite a bit of Instagram to drive customers to her location--primarily using posts that are not paid advertisements but that feature tasty creations from her bakery. She also stated that she utilizes the internet to grow her core niche in the market which is Wedding Cakes and specialty baked goods. She is also not opposed to sending certain baked goods out across the country. "I sent some items to family over the holidays, to Ohio and North Carolina-primarily to see how it would hold up" she stated. When asked how that turned out, she said "The items I sent to Ohio arrived in great shape...the North Carolina items, not so much.." On our way out, we were treated to freshly baked muffins!
|Armored Frog owner Joe Sinkovich talks internet marketing|
for his high-end furniture manufacturing company
end, custom designed furniture. "If it were not for the internet, we wouldn't be here today" stated Founder and CEO Joe Sinkovich when asked about how the power of the internet boosts his business. He provided a summary of his social media sites' metrics to Rep. Gaetz, complete with a report of all the internet activity, email marketing, email opens, returning visits, volume, etc. "Your email open percentage is 30%--I'd kill for those numbers!" Rep. Gaetz exclaimed after viewing the Armored Frog's internet marketing stats. According to Sinkovich, the biggest challenge is getting exposure of his brand to the high-end furniture purchaser. "We're not a name that people equate with our product-but we are working on that and the internet is an important part of our strategy." When I asked him about shipping the furniture--and being high-end would it require assembly?-he quipped "No, no assembly, it comes ready to use. We send them in crates, some so large they have actually been used as tree-houses!" Sinkovich is interested in expanding his furniture kiosks across the country and he is using the internet to push this initiative.
We next entered Blue Morning Gallery. This is an art cooperative, run and funded by the artists who's work is displayed and sold in the store. President of the gallery, Jim Sweida, gave the attendees a brief history of the gallery: "We have been here for 20 years--we've been here longer than most any of the other businesses on Palafox" he stated with pride. Sweida, a photographer and one of the
artists who's work adorns the walls of the gallery, has been president of the cooperative for the past 7 years. When asked about how the internet helps his business, Sweida explained that the gallery did not have a large budget for advertising--including internet paid advertising. "We have a web-page, and we do great business during the gallery nights, but half of all our sales are from out of town tourists" The representatives from both Google and Facebook discussed sales and marketing strategy with Sweida, and much of the discussion was quite interesting. "Let's be honest, we are not a high-end gallery. Most of the wealthy Pensacola art buyers go to New York or Miami to purchase their art" Sweida conceded. "But we have great products and our prices are reasonable--this is why we have been here, successful, for so long."
|Rishy Studer discusses sales and marketing strategy with|
Rep. Matt Gaetz and others in her shop The Bodacious
Olive in Downtown Pensacola
It was eye-opening to me to see just how powerful the internet is becoming for local small business start-ups of every type--it is extremely important according to all of these small business owners. Kudos to Rep. Gaetz for organizing this very unique and interesting event, and I appreciated the opportunity to be invited and to attend.