Welcome to CO—'s news feed for small businesses. We bring you all the news you need to run a successful business and keep on top of the latest trends. Updated regularly and always found right here... all in one place.

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All the news you need to run your small business.

How Pura Vida grew from a scrappy startup to a millennial-beloved national brand

College friends Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman bought 400 colorful bracelets from local artisans they met on a beach in Costa Rica. They sold out immediately in the states, giving birth to Pura Vida.

The startup tapped thousands of micro-influencers to promote its bracelets made by global artisans employed by the brand on social media, building a devoted following among millennials and Gen Z, which helped scale the business and double sales every year.

Pura Vida, which started out selling mostly online, now retails in 5,000 stores including Nordstrom and its first freestanding location. The startup is now part of Vera Bradley, which purchased 75% of the brand in 2019. Learn more actionable insights on how Pura Vida evolved from a scrappy startup to a national brand by watching CEO and co-founder Griffin Thall detail its growth strategy here.

How the pandemic-driven work-from-home trend spells opportunity for small businesses

The remote work trend has fueled one of the pivotal shifts in spending habits since the pandemic: The drift toward shopping local small businesses. Indeed, 75% of consumers plan to shop more locally over the next year, according to a study by digital operations platform Brightpearl.

That’s because spending more time close to home has made Americans rethink what stores and services they want in their neighborhoods.

Learn how the post-pandemic socio-economic landscape is creating greater demand for neighborhood shopping districts and walkable residential developments, generating big opportunities for local small businesses here.

Get up to $500 in credits when you find and interview candidates through Indeed

On May 10, career site Indeed announced the launch of the Indeed Small Business Hiring Fund. This fund will provide $50 million to aid small businesses in their hiring efforts and speed up overall economic recovery. Small- and medium-sized U.S.-based businesses can receive up to $500 in sponsored job credits to apply toward finding their next hire when they use Indeed for the interview process. Small businesses that schedule an interview through Indeed can earn $300 for completing their first interview and $50 in credit for each completed interview afterward, up to a total of $500.

3 startup founders on how they tapped into consumers’ craving for immersive experiences to drive growth

Whether a business is developing a new app or a consumer product, offering users immersive experiences — with a local twist — can be key to unlocking a return on investment, a trio of startup founders told CO—.

Map-based video-sharing app Playsee amassed thousands of users by matching consumers with highly targeted content based on their location and personal interests. Social discovery app Go Disco helps people find “niche, local and cool things to do” — landing $8.1 million in funding to drive growth. And alcohol-free beverage startup Mingle Mocktails weaves celebratory marketing and experiences into every consumer touchpoint, helping it land placement at national retailer Whole Foods.

Learn more about how these three startups accelerated growth via experience-driven business models here.

Campbell’s chief marketing officer on how its pandemic pivot wooed millennials and Gen Z

The pandemic continues to impact how the nation lives and eats: Consumers’ at-home meals surged by 85 billion last year, and rose 20 billion among millennials, according to national eating trend data from the NPD Group.

As Campbell Soup Co. pivoted to meet the needs of shoppers eating more meals at home and buying their groceries online, it captured new business from millennials and Gen Z by feeding their consumption habits and tapping into their cultural touchpoints.

Learn from Campbell’s chief marketing officer Linda Lee on how the iconic soup brand leveraged new soup flavors and healthy fare to gaming platforms and livestream events to boost business among younger consumers here.

Google announces career certificate scholarships for small businesses worth up to $100K

During National Small Business Week, Google announced its new scholarship program for small businesses. It offers up to 500 scholarships per small business — worth over $100,000 in workforce training — for Google Career Certificates to train employees in data analytics, IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, or digital marketing and e-commerce.

The newest certification — the Digital Marketing and E-Commerce Certificate — provides training to small business operators on digital marketing best practices.

Lisa Cohen Gevelber, Chief Marketing Officer, Americas Region at Google, said in a LinkedIn post, “Those who create growth opportunities for their employees have a much better shot at retaining them. We wanted to make that easier and affordable [with these scholarships].”

Google estimates the certificates take about 5-10 hours a week for three to six months for professionals to complete. The program is available until Dec. 18, 2024.

SBA resource partner SCORE provides two new free resources for small business owners

SCORE, an SBA resource partner, offers various mentoring, training, and resources to small businesses. To further these efforts, SCORE is now providing two new free resources for entrepreneurs: Resilience Hub and SCORE for All.

Resilience Hub aims to help business owners achieve government funding and provide mentoring and training. The initiative is a response to the pandemic, which impacted many businesses’ abilities to secure the proper financing to aid their growth.

The second resource, SCORE for All, supports diversity in business by providing specialized resources to women-, veteran-, and minority-owned small businesses. SCORE recognizes the road to entrepreneurship is harder for some, and SMB owners from different backgrounds require different resources. SCORE for All addresses the gaps in resources to ensure all diverse businesses have what they need to succeed. To take advantage of these resources, visit SCORE today.

Meta announces new ad and messaging tools for small businesses

On May 4, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced new tools for small business owners to manage their conversations, ads, and leads. Now, when a consumer clicks a Facebook or Instagram ad, they’ll have the ability to start a WhatsApp conversation with the company that’s advertising. In the Meta Business Suite, WhatsApp messages now come directly to the small business’s inbox, and owners can send messages directly to customers through Messenger.

For lead generation, Instagram will now allow small business owners to provide quotes to users, send instant response forms, and download lead information directly into their own CRM. Meta will be hosting a free virtual conversation on May 19 to discuss these changes and how to meet people where they are on their messaging platforms.

How wellness tourism is nudging a post-pandemic recovery for hospitality brands

Wellness tourism—travel related to the pursuit of self-care and cultivating personal well-being—has grown post-pandemic.

A 2021 survey from American Express found that 76% of those polled wanted to spend more on travel to enhance their well-being.

The trend has startups from Casa Alternavida to big brands like Hyatt elevating the wellness experience for guests. They are catering to the guest’s mind, body, and spirit to drive business.

Learn from hospitality executives on how perks and strategies ranging from guest-customized wellness itineraries and flotation therapy to sleep suites are boosting bookings here.

3 startups reveal the strategies they implemented to reach profitability

Careful planning before launching products into the market, along with zealous containment of expenses early on, helped a trio of startups attain the often-elusive goal of profitability.

Brandon Kruse, founder and CEO of livestream platform CommentSold; Ryan Close, founder and CEO of cocktail maker Bartesian; and Jack Nekhala, CEO of fitted-sheet holder Bed Scrunchie, shared what they found pivotal to achieving profitability, from building a cash cushion to fall back on to optimizing your supply chain early to minimize problems with sourcing and logistics down the road.

Learn the strategies these startup founders implemented to reach profitability here.

The chief digital officer of Albertsons shares the biggest lessons learned from the supermarket’s digital transformation

COVID-19 triggered a surge in online spending, with Americans purchasing $1.7 trillion online during the two years of the pandemic—almost double what they spent online in 2018 and 2019 combined—according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

Grocery stores saw the biggest addition of new online shoppers, Adobe reported, with monthly online grocery spending more than doubling to an average of $6.7 billion each month.

Against that backdrop, Albertsons Companies, which operates over 2,200 supermarkets in 34 states, had to respond quickly to meet a 263% jump in digital sales from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2021. The strategies Albertsons used for its digital transformation, from offering fast shipping to differentiated perks, like a menu-planning app for consumers, offer lessons for businesses large and small looking to make a digital leap.

Learn actionable insights from Chris Rupp, Chief Customer and Digital Officer at Albertsons, on the company’s digital transformation here.

How LinkedIn is offering ‘digital storefronts’ to service-driven businesses via its marketplace platform

The pandemic sparked a boom in small business formations, according to The National Bureau of Economic Research, and the heightened interest in entrepreneurship continues.

Against that backdrop, digital platforms ranging from Facebook to Pinterest to Yelp and now LinkedIn are offering new tools and marketplaces that aim to help entrepreneurs grow.

Launched in late 2021, LinkedIn’s Services Marketplace is designed to help entrepreneurs showcase their skills, maximize connections and land new clients. Matt Faustman, product lead for pages, products, and service with LinkedIn, shares how small businesses can use the professional networking site’s Services Marketplace platform to grow here.

Pepperdine Graziadio launches its 5th annual Most Fundable Companies survey

For the fifth year in a row, Pepperdine University's Graziadio Business School has released its Most Fundable Companies survey, an open call to help the school identify and connect promising early-stage companies with the resources they need to grow. Interested participants can complete the survey on Pepperdine’s website by May 27, 2022, to enter the first round of the competition. All companies that advance to the second round receive a free comprehensive feedback report on how to make their company more attractive to investors. Top companies selected for the annual Pepperdine Most Fundable Companies list will be recognized at the school’s Malibu gala in October.

SBA adds two new courses to its Ascent online learning programs

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently launched two new courses, Partnerships Journey and Entrepreneurial Leadership Journey, designed to provide women-owned small businesses with resources for success.

The new courses are a part of the SBA-sponsored Ascent online digital learning platform, a free program created to support and educate female business owners. The Partnerships Journey course focuses on teaching female entrepreneurs the value of creating partnerships in business. In the Entrepreneurial Leadership Journey course, participants will build and refine their leadership skills to position small businesses for success.

This SBA platform launched in 2021 and has since assisted roughly 50,000 entrepreneurs to write business plans, access capital, and move into the contracting space.

Amazon launches a $30 million Impact Accelerator program for underserved founders

Amazon web services (AWS) is launching a $30 million Impact Accelerator for underrepresented business founders. The new program will provide qualifying startups with $125,000 in cash and up to $100,000 in AWS credits for growth/education resources, as well as introductions to Amazon leaders and teams, networking opportunities with investors, and advisory support. The AWS accelerator has previously provided startups with business tools and education but will now be contributing the new funding toward educating, funding, and supporting specifically underserved business owners, who they've defined as Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, and women founders. Eligible startups can already begin applying to the first Impact Accelerator program, the AWS Impact Accelerator for Black Founders.

3 startup executives reveal how they turned pandemic-informed decisions into business gains poised to reap long-term value

Operating a startup through the pandemic has been no small feat. The ever-changing circumstances have forced many founders and company leaders to make difficult decisions in every arena — from product assortment to personnel.

A trio of startups managed to turn pandemic-informed decisions into business gains poised to reap long-term value.

Bean Box, a specialty coffee subscription service, grew its subscription revenue by over 100% year over year in 2021 by investing in manufacturing automation and product development; personal care brand Curie made its mark on the category with a hydrating hand sanitizer launch; and bridal startup Azazie found success by being one of the first retailers in its market to cater to the specific needs of the pandemic wedding consumer.

Glean actionable insights from the executives of these startups on how they turned pandemic challenges into business opportunities here.

Co-founder of online startup Saatva on becoming a $400 million brand by disrupting the luxury mattress business and now growing via stores

The direct-to-consumer mattress market took flight over the past dozen years, as startup brands like Saatva, Casper, and Purple tapped into consumers’ increasing willingness to purchase big-ticket items online.

As the startups’ online sales plateaued, DTC mattress companies have turned to brick-and-mortar stores to jumpstart growth.

Now Saatva, a pioneer in the DTC mattress space that grew to $400 million in sales by building a national manufacturing and delivery distribution network— a peer-differentiated business model — is eyeing growth by opening mattress showrooms in 50 major markets over the next four years.

Learn from co-founder and chief strategy officer Ricky Joshi on the strategy behind Saatva’s next phase of growth here.

How one buzzy pet startup watched its revenue per user soar 97% after implementing a new customer data platform

As companies increasingly acquire customer data via a variety of sources, from mobile interactions to in-store purchases, they need to ensure that relevant data is readily accessible to marketing teams.

Research from Gartner shows that marketers are seeking a more holistic, “360-degree view” of their customers through data, and companies that achieved this complete view were more likely to use a customer data platform rather than a customer relationship management platform.

By pivoting to a customer data platform that facilitates personalization, pet startup BARK boosted revenue per user 97%. Learn how BARK’s new tech platform enabled more targeted customer communications, like emails to pit bull owners, uncorking newfound sales here.

Restaurants are generating sales in unexpected ways — via vending machines to doggie parties — to counter pandemic losses

Restaurants are still recovering from the pandemic. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry Report, more than half of restaurant operators said it would be a year or more before business conditions return to normal. One bright spot: Consumers' pent-up demand for restaurant services remains high. Savvy restaurant owners are capitalizing on this appetite and coming up with creative ways to bring in business. They’re taking cues from food trends, like the uptick in healthy eating post-COVID; following customers’ lead for new business ideas, such as requests to hold parties at their venues; and adding convenience elements to their dining options, like vending machines that dispense simple menu items for the return-to-office crowd. Read how three restaurant businesses uncorked surprising new revenue streams here.

SBA increases eligible industries for the WOSB Federal Contracting Program by 70%

Women-owned small businesses were heavily impacted by COVID-19 due to a lack of financial resources, disruptions in childcare, and other issues. To help address these challenges and more, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced a 70% increase in eligible industries (from 444 to 759) for the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program. This change will help more women-owned businesses that are underrepresented in the federal marketplace by allocating federal contracting set-asides for them. A few of the new industries now included are Temporary Help Services, Home Health Care Services, Electronic Computer Manufacturing, and Air Transportation Support.

To qualify, your business must be certified. Women-owned small businesses can become SBA-certified by applying directly on the SBA’s website. Keep in mind that you’ll need an active registration in the System for Award Management and the proper documentation to prove eligibility. Once you have proof of certification, you can have access to various resources and programs that provide assistance to women-owned businesses.

Interested in finding out whether your industry is included? Here’s a full list of eligible NAICS for the WOSB Federal Contracting program. Participating in this program can help your business receive the federal contracting set-asides needed to succeed.

To stay on top of all the news impacting your small business, go here for all of our latest small business news and updates.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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