I grew up in Athens, Georgia, where my parents have worked at a local family-owned fish bait business for more than 22 years. As a kid, I remember how close-knit everyone at the company was, attending birthdays and family barbecues that turned us into a real extended family. This small company created a sense of community for us, and it also helped us pay our bills, buy a house and finance my education as a first-generation college student.
In Athens, small businesses are not only the bedrock of the economy, but also what make the community vibrant. And that’s true in just about every other city and town across the country. In the U.S., over 33 million small businesses create two thirds of new jobs and account for 44% of economic activity. Owning a small business is rewarding, but also challenging. Small business owners also have to deal with finding new customers, sustaining operations, rising costs and keeping up with the latest technology. That’s why I’m so proud to work on the Grow with Google Digital Coaches program, which connects diverse small businesses across the country with local marketing experts and entrepreneurs who provide live training and hands-on coaching to help them grow. Digital Coaches are successful business leaders who are from the communities they serve and who help local entrepreneurs achieve their goals.
Today, we’re announcing the addition of ten new Digital Coaches in Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. Trained in partnership with Main Street America, these new coaches will work with businesses in their home states, with a focus on those that operate in small towns and rural communities. Digital Coaches will offer ongoing workshops on topics designed to help small businesses grow and thrive, including connecting with customers, selling online, and improving productivity – all for free.
Meet the new Digital Coaches
With these new additions, the Grow with Google Digital Coaches program is now 28 coaches strong and brings dedicated support to businesses in small towns.
Small business owners frequently wear many hats: they may spend 12 hours a day running a restaurant, but they also need to be an accountant, a marketer, a customer service rep and an IT support person. Digital Coaches help lighten this load by equipping business owners with the digital skills they need. To date, Digital Coaches have helped more than 160,000 small businesses gain new skills.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from Stephanie and Michael Wigenton, who own Wigenton Candle Co. in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. As owners of a brick-and-mortar store in a small town, the Wigentons knew digital tools could help them grow beyond their local customer base. But they needed help learning how to use those tools. After attending free workshops hosted by local Digital Coach Soleil Meade, Stephanie learned how to use analytics and a Google Business Profile to stand out to potential customers, leading to a 200% increase in customer traffic and online sales. “The workshops have allowed us to master one tool at a time to grow, and we’re now selling candles across the country from coast to coast,” Stephanie says.
Pennsylvania Digital Coach Soleil Meade hosts free digital skills workshops for small businesses.