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All the news you need to run your small business.

Small businesses impacted by Key Bridge collapse can apply for SBA disaster loan

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has opened applications for low-interest disaster loans, available to small businesses affected by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, Maryland on March 26. Through the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, businesses can receive up to $2 million in assistance with a 4% interest rate, with deferred interest and repayment periods starting 12 months from the initial disbursement. Eligibility is open to small businesses in Maryland and the surrounding regions — including portions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia — to support those reliant on the bridge for their operations and logistics. Learn more about the loan program here.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosting Small Business Day event on May 1

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host its Small Business Day event, marking the start of Small Business Month. Aimed at small business owners eager to expand their ventures, the hybrid in-person/virtual event will feature discussions with business experts and entrepreneurs on growth strategies and practical advice. Those attending in person at the Chamber’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., will enjoy a lunch reception and networking hour, and can also participate in free portrait sessions and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Virtual attendees can join for deep-dive panel discussions on today’s most pressing topics, including practical uses of AI, industry trends, and policy updates. Learn more or register for the event here.

Execs from Google and Amazon accelerators on providing investment and mentorship opportunities to minority-owned businesses long-excluded from the game

Across America, large corporations including Amazon, Google, and Northwestern Mutual have launched accelerators to give minority entrepreneurs a launchpad for their startups.

Many programs give participants cash awards as well as introductions to potential venture capital investors.

It’s a growing movement as the focus on diversity heats up: Currently, less than 2% of the $31 billion in venture capital awarded has been allocated to startups with diverse founders, according to a report by Diversity VC.

These programs aim to help level the playing field for minority founders who face a unique set of challenges.

Executives from Google, Amazon, as well as the founders of BIPOC-led startups GetRoute.com, a sales management platform for commercial and residential cleaning services; digital health platform Acclinate; and supply chain tech company Stimulus, discuss how these accelerators are helping minority-owned businesses here.

Startups court eco-conscious consumers — and cost-minded restaurants — with reusable food containers

Disposable packaging and food containers from restaurants account for 9 million tons of trash in the U.S. each year.

As consumer demand for restaurant takeout soared during the pandemic, so did awareness around the amount of waste generated from takeout containers.

Startups DeliverZero, Forever Ware, and Vessel, which make returnable takeout containers, are catering to U.S. restaurants and foodservice businesses, who lose $24 billion a year from disposable food containers, as well as the growing ranks of sustainably minded consumers.

Learn from the founders of these businesses how they’re tapping the reusable food container market for growth here.

Noom, Hilton and American Express execs on tapping the rise of SMBs, wellness, and the WFH economy to drive business

Three years after COVID disrupted the world order as we knew it, its impact on businesses’ go-to-market strategies rolls on.

A trio of very different companies are leaning into the pandemic-rejiggered economy to catalyze growth: American Express is tapping into the surge in post-pandemic small business formations with its new Business Blueprint hub; weight-loss app Noom is enhancing its platform to deliver users holistic health solutions amid the wellness boom; and Hilton is launching its first-ever economy hotel, designed with the nation’s hybrid workforce in mind, executives from the brands told CO—.

Read how Andreas Michaelides, Chief of Psychology for Noom; Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s Chief Brand Officer; and Gina Taylor, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Business Blueprint and Banking, are monetizing big post-pandemic growth opportunities here.

Walmart Business SVP on the retailer’s plan to become a one-stop shop for business customers

There are more than 33 million small businesses in America, with record numbers of new small businesses formed in the past two years.

During the pandemic, small businesses began seeking easier and more digital solutions for tasks such as ordering, inventory control, and delivery management.

Against that backdrop, Walmart looked at its customer base and decided it needed an e-commerce platform designed for precisely that market — the many small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits already shopping at Walmart stores, Ashley Hubka, Walmart Senior Vice President and General Manager of the new Walmart Business platform, told CO—.

Today, Walmart’s new Walmart Business platform offers features like multi-user accounts and spend analytics that are specifically tailored to business needs.

Hear from Hubka on how Walmart is building a new shopping channel for small businesses here.

Apple VP of Enterprise and Education Marketing on its bold push to make life easier for small business owners

More than five million new businesses were formed in 2022, up 42% from pre-pandemic levels.

At the same time, mobile devices and digital connections have become increasingly important for business owners.

To that end, Apple has introduced new ways for businesses to increase their reach online, accept payments, and manage their IT needs.

Those tools include Apple’s newest offering, Apple Business Connect, as well as two other recently added enhancements, Tap to Pay on iPhone and Business Essentials, that growing numbers of small businesses are using.

Learn from Susan Prescott, Vice President of Enterprise and Education Marketing at Apple, on how the tech giant is jockeying to offer SMBs resources to collaborate, stand out from competitors, and scale here.

Three growing brands free up cash by optimizing inventory and avoiding costly liquidations—while generating sales

An estimated 70% of supply chain leaders have been stocking up on inventory to reduce the risk of supply chain disruption, according to business advisory The Hackett Group.

In an inflationary environment, freeing up cash by optimizing inventory has grown in importance — it was the No. 1 issue in The Hackett Group’s annual survey of supply chain leaders.

Companies including teeth-whitening business Snow Cosmetics; fast-fashion brand Freedom Rave Wear; and organic protein powder brand KOS have kept a tight grip on inventory levels using technology that combines multiple data points, from historical sales analytics to promotional strategies.

Snow Cosmetics avoids inventory overstocks by knowing precisely when to purchase goods and how much to purchase; Freedom Rave Wear delivers fast fashion via inventory planning tech that produces most of its orders almost in real time; and KOS taps inventory planning to more accurately forecast demand, optimize its stock levels, and plan its cash flow.

Learn more from the companies’ executives on how the businesses leverage tech to slay inventory overhang and save millions here.

The IRS is offering in-person tax assistance without appointments on select Saturdays

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is opening several Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the country between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, and Saturday, May 13, to offer in-person tax help without an appointment. On normal days, these centers are open by appointment only. The IRS advises taxpayers to come prepared by bringing necessary documents, including government-issued photo identification, Social Security cards for household members, and any related documents or notices received from the IRS. During the visit, IRS staff may request other information, such as a current mailing address and proof of bank account information. Professional language interpretation will be available.

Canva unveils enhanced features to empower small business creatives

Six months after launching the Canva Visual Suite, Canva has released an abundance of new features to help small business owners take their marketing assets to the next level. The graphic design platform revealed advanced features including a Brand Hub to help businesses create a visual identity, a new translation feature, a photo editor that includes Magic Eraser to clean up images and Magic Edit to replace or add designs within an image, and a Magic Write expansion which uses AI to draft copy automatically. Other improvements include a freehand Draw tool and Bulk Create, which makes it easier for business owners to design multiple versions of the same design seamlessly.

Registration is open for SBA’s National Small Business Week Virtual Summit

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE have announced that registration is open for the 2023 National Small Business Week Virtual Summit. The free, online event runs from May 2-3, 2023 and offers small business owners the opportunity to network, attend educational workshops, and access federal resources; a full agenda and cosponsoring speakers are expected to be published at a later date. The summit takes place during National Small Business Week, celebrated each year to recognize the contributions of American entrepreneurs and small business owners. Those who wish to attend this event must register online.

Wix announces integration with Meta for streamlined social media communications

Popular SaaS provider Wix has integrated with Meta to help business owners streamline their social media communications. Users can now connect their WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger business accounts with their Wix Inbox, the company’s proprietary CRM messaging tool. This provides a single repository for users to view and respond to messages from a variety of platforms, including Meta, email, SMS, and Wix Chat. Business owners can also use Wix Inbox to reach out to site visitors directly, both via live chat and asynchronously, and send them links and attachments. Wix’s CRM team is in the process of increasing its third-party channels and integrations to continue to expand the functionality of Wix Inbox.

Tech firms that provide mobile commerce solutions for brands from Weber grills to UNTUCKit menswear on driving sales via mobile devices

Mobile commerce sales in the U.S. are projected to double between 2020 and 2025, reaching more than $728 billion.

But while consumers love to browse for products on their mobile devices, getting them to actually buy still remains a challenge for businesses.

Marketers are turning mobile browsers into buyers with strategies such as detailed product description pages that help drive purchasing decisions; unbiased brand feedback from social media platforms; and streamlined mobile payment processes that enable “one-click checkout,” experts say.

Learn from experts who provide commerce solutions for a range of brands on what it takes to drive sales on mobile devices here.

Neutrogena exec on tapping AI to meet consumers’ heightened personal wellness demands

Businesses that excel at personalization can generate 40% more revenue than companies that don’t, according to McKinsey research.

And in the post-COVID beauty sector, self-care minded consumers increasingly seek out wellness-driven skincare products that are customized to their needs.

Leaning into that demand, legacy brand Neutrogena’s new vitamin supplements leverage consumers’ AI-enabled face scans to serve up personalized skincare regimens, tapping into the $3.3 billion global beauty ingestible market for growth.

Desiree Dowe, Director of Future of Skin Health at Neutrogena, shares how the brand’s Skinstacks vitamin gummies are delivering its consumers customized skincare here.

Lee jeans updates its iconic essence with small business partnerships and design twists to court next-gen consumers

Name recognition is not enough to compete in today’s fast-moving apparel economy—young consumers are looking to connect with brands that tell a story and align with their values.

And in an era of increased casualization, the denim economy is growing fast: According to Allied Market Research, the global jeans market size was worth $56.2 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $88.1 billion by 2030.

Against that backdrop, Lee is tapping into niche collaborations and vintage appeal to grab Gen Z attention and denim market share from other heritage labels, fast-fashion retailers, and upstart brands.

Chris Waldeck, EVP, Co-COO, and Global Brand President of Lee, shares how its building credibility among a new demographic here.

Execs from Hormel (think Skippy and SPAM) on serving both multicultural and health-conscious consumers to fuel business

Consumers are increasingly interested in global flavors, as well as in companies and products that improve their health and that of the environment.

Hormel, parent company of iconic brands like Planters and SPAM, is adding a broad assortment of products, from antibiotic-and hormone-free meats to Chili Picante Corn Nuts snacks, to appeal to a range of customers, from health-conscious eaters and multicultural consumers to adventurous flavor-seekers, both in foodservice and retail.

At the same time, a new corporate structure that groups the company’s diverse product lines together for the purpose of B2B sales allows the company to better leverage the stable of brands and products in its portfolio.

Hormel Foods’ Deanna Brady, Executive Vice President of Retail, and Mark Ourada, Group Vice President of Foodservice, unpack how the company’s modernized product portfolio is serving today’s consumers here.

AI (think ChatGPT) is quietly changing how marketers sell goods and services

ChatGPT, the buzzy chatbot that can answer questions and generate a poem in the style of William Shakespeare or a comedy monologue in the style of Jerry Seinfeld, has thrust artificial intelligence (AI) into the spotlight of late.

It’s a sign of the times: The global market for AI technology is expected to grow by an average of 38% annually and reach $1.8 trillion by 2030. Today, AI is being used by restaurants and retailers to fashion brands to analyze shopping behavior and recommend products, communicate with customers, keep store shelves stocked, and perform other tasks.

Startups are poised to leverage AI in new ways to help shoppers find the perfect fit or help them haggle online over the price of a handbag. Read about some of the key ways AI is changing the buying and selling of goods and services here.

Chief Marketing Officer of Haus Labs by Lady Gaga on turning shoppable video into newfound sales

Businesses are increasingly tapping the power of video to draw eyeballs and potentially increase sales.

Indeed, 91% of marketers surveyed said video content helped them boost traffic, while 90% said it helped them generate leads.

Especially useful in the beauty sector, short-form shoppable videos capitalize on how-to tutorials and brand messaging to drive consumer purchases.

For example, when consumers tap the “Watch and Shop” widget in the buy-now-pay-later Klarna app, they can find videos of Lady Gaga demonstrating her Haus Labs beauty products. The videos are “shoppable,” so users can click on any product to route to the Haus Labs by Lady Gaga website and buy the makeup immediately.

Kelly Coller, Chief Marketing Officer for Haus Labs, shares how video has driven brand awareness and customer traffic for the star’s beauty business here.

Meta’s new Rights Manager tool helps content creators better manage their IP

Intellectual property (IP) has become an increasingly important issue for business owners, especially those who regularly create and publish content on online platforms. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has released a new tool called Rights Manager to help small businesses protect the original content they post on those social media channels. In an announcement, the company said this tool “combats copyright infringement and protects lawful expression on Facebook and Instagram” by giving copyright holders more transparency on their IP rights and more control over when, how, and where their content is shared on Meta platforms. Content creators and businesses with an active Facebook page can learn more and apply for access to the Rights Manager tool at rightsmanager.fb.com.

Upscale real estate firm The Agency taps tech to drive growth and log $12.4 billion in sales volume amid digital disruption

Luxury real estate firm The Agency is seeking to take its knack for branding to the next level with a technology-driven customer experience.

The Los Angeles-based company recently acquired a technology-centric real estate firm in New York called Triplemint, and the two companies have merged their capabilities in an effort to provide a comprehensive digital platform for high-end property buyers, sellers, and agents. The move comes as the real estate industry has increasingly leveraged digital platforms that seek to provide enhanced experiences for customers.

Learn from The Agency CEO Mauricio Umansky, who’s featured in the new Netflix series "Buying Beverly Hills," on how real-time data, enhanced communication and scheduling capabilities, and a turnkey marketing template helped the upscale real estate firm log $12.4 billion in 2022 sales volume here.

Trend forecasters unpack consumer attitude shifts and brand innovations to reveal how companies can prepare to drive business throughout the year

Trend forecasters see 2023 as an opportunity for brands and businesses to think out of the box when it comes to both physical and digital experiences. Novelty for the sake of novelty will not be enough to impress the post-COVID consumer.

Consumers are looking for new ways to connect with brands and with one another, relying on social media as an important source of both community and customer convenience.

Sustainability is no longer a trend — instead, it is has become a perennial force driving consumers' and brands’ go-to-market behavior, trend forecasters told CO—.

Learn from leading trend forecasters on how the evolution of the experience economy, the rise of social media as search engine, and the expansion of wellness culture to include mental health and hygiene will drive business in 2023 here.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

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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Is your small business one of the best in America? Apply for our premier awards program for small businesses, the CO—100, today to get recognized and rewarded. One hundred businesses will be honored and one business will be awarded $25,000.