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.


All the news you need to run your small business.

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.

Innovative startups to established players — from Gobble meal kits to Amazon — leverage personalized experiences and a human touch to win over new consumers

Consumer expectations just seem to keep growing. In a buying landscape with an overwhelming number of options, many shoppers are looking for brands, products, and experiences that feel as one-of-a-kind as they are.

As more consumer interactions take place online, personalization becomes the key to delivering experiences that stand out and resonate with consumers in any category.

The next generation of digital customer service will go beyond speed and convenience and prioritize unique, person-to-person interaction.

Technology such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) helps brands create value-added experiences—like apps that allow customers to visualize how a piece of furniture would fit in their home—that go beyond the products themselves and help shoppers ensure they are getting goods and services suited to their distinct needs.

Learn how consumer brands – from subscription meal service Gobble to major retailers like Walmart – have delivered personalized experiences and achieved growth in a field of ever-intensifying competition here.

As VC funding dries up, startups tap venture debt financing to fuel expansion

Venture capital funding in the U.S. dropped to $238 billion last year from $345 billion in 2021, Pitchbook and the National Association of Venture Capital reports.

As venture capitalists tighten their purse strings, startups are tapping venture debt — a loan or line of credit, usually with rights to buy company warrants (the right to stock options) that is often backed by a startup’s assets — for expansion capital in this uncertain economic environment.

Learn from executives from Automation Anywhere and Kin Insurance (and from venture capital investors at Silicon Valley Bank and Horizon Technology Finance, too) on how venture debt has helped their businesses jumpstart growth, as well as the risks to watch for, here.

Determine your business’s intellectual property with USPTO’s new IP identifier tool

Businesses across all industries can generate a variety of intellectual property (IP), from unique branding and imagery to proprietary software programs. But not every business knows exactly what counts as IP — or, more importantly, how to protect it. In January 2023, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a free online Intellectual Property Identifier tool to help business owners understand whether they have IP and if so, what legal protections they might need to “support and advance their business, invention, or brand.” By filling out a simple questionnaire, you can quickly find out what type of IP your business has and your options for protecting it through the USPTO’s offerings, including trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.

SBA accepting applications for VetCert program

As of January 1, 2023, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is now accepting applications for its Veteran Small Business Certification (VetCert) program. The certification function, previously handled by the Office of Veterans Affairs (VA), was recently transferred to the SBA.

Through VetCert, veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) are eligible to compete for a wider range of federal contracts. Specifically, certified SDVOSBs can apply for federal sole-source and set-aside contracts across the federal government, while certified VOSBs can pursue additional sole-source and set-aside contracts under the Veterans Administration (VA)’s Vets First program.

Amazon’s Buy with Prime program to expand to all small businesses

Effective January 31, 2023, Amazon’s previously invite-only Buy with Prime program will now be open to all eligible small businesses. Merchants that participate in the program can offer shoppers free, fast delivery and easy returns, offering an improved client experience.

Amazon first launched Buy with Prime in April 2022, allowing select direct-to-consumer merchants to display the Prime badge on their website, as well as offer the associated shopping benefits. Since launch, the program has only been available by invitation; now, even more businesses will be able to enjoy the perks of Buy with Prime.

According to Amazon’s internal data, Buy with Prime increased shopper conversion by an average of 25%, with some merchants reporting gains of over 30% after adding the Prime logo to their online shops.

The IRS is increasing standard mileage rates for business use by 3 cents per mile

On January 1, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) put into effect new standard mileage rates for 2023. Business owners and employees can now use these optional standard mileage rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business.

For business use, the standard mileage rate for the use of a car, van, pickup, or panel truck in 2023 is 65.5 cents per mile, which is a 3-cent increase from 2022. The rate applies to electric and hybrid-electric automobiles, as well as gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

The IRS bases its standard mileage rate for business use on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile in America.

Digital-out-of-home advertising startup Loop Media builds $67 million business by leaning into (short-form) streaming trend

Consumers are seeking more out-of-home experiences in the wake of the pandemic, just as advertisers are seeking to reach consumers wherever they’re gathering.

U.S. out-of-home advertising, where digital displays and streaming content appear at bus stops to malls and restaurants, is projected to grow 12% in 2022, reaching $7.93 billion.

Against that backdrop, Loop Media, led by veterans of the media and entertainment sectors, marries programmatic advertising with digital out-of-home (DOOH) content, and projects revenues of $67 million this year, leaning into consumers’ evolving viewing habits for growth.

As marketers increasingly tap DOOH ads to reach consumers, Jon Niermann, Co-founder of Loop Media and a Disney veteran, reveals how his expertise is helping to drive sales gains on the short-form streaming platform here.

3 startups break into Walmart, Target and Ulta via an innovation incubator and DTC data insights

Mass market and specialty retailers like Target and Ulta are looking to startups to differentiate their assortments and speak to consumers who are young, diverse, and increasingly driven by digital influences like TikTok.

As they expand into national retailers, three brands are bringing something new to store shelves, while leveraging their small scale to stay nimble and ensure that products evolve to meet customer expectations.

Fila Manila is bringing traditional Filipino flavors and sauces to the nation’s top grocers including Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Target. BYOMA, an accessibly priced skincare brand developed within innovation incubator Future Beauty Labs, launched a year ago and is already carried in Ulta and Target. And Bean Box, a specialty marketplace curating varieties of small-batch coffees, has expanded from its DTC and subscription model and adjusted its products to stand out on the shelves of national retailers like Walmart.

The three founders share their insights on how they made the leap to big retail here.

Certification as a woman- and minority-owned small business lands Sugar Bliss cookies on Walgreens’ shelves

Former equity research analyst Teresa Ging founded cupcake business Sugar Bliss in 2007, leveraging her financial savvy to secure a bank loan and bootstrap the business.

Getting Sugar Bliss officially certified as a woman- and minority-owned business granted Ging entree to industry events spanning the travel and hospitality to retail sectors, connecting her with supplier diversity managers and retail buyers.

During a program at the Women’s Business Development Center to help SMBs tap the mass retail market for growth, Ging met a Walgreens buyer. That meeting led to Sugar Bliss’ expansion into packaged goods this year, with the launch of four cookie flavors in 40 Walgreens stores.

Learn how Ging funded and scaled Sugar Bliss by leveraging its standing as a certified woman- and minority-owned business, and by tapping her background as a financial analyst, here.

Experts say in-store experiences, digital tools, and strategic promotions can drive brand awareness and consumer spending this holiday and beyond

Retailers and brands that can provide a rewarding experience for their shoppers, whether in-store, online or through strategic promotions, are poised to succeed during the final run-up to the holidays and beyond, according to experts interviewed by CO—.

Even in an inflationary environment with the threat of a recession looming over shoppers in the year ahead, consumers are still celebrating the holidays, sales data indicate, although some may be searching for value and spending a little more carefully.

Learn tips from retail experts about how merchants can convince wary consumers to spend more of their shopping budgets with them, rather than with their competitors, here.

More states are receiving SSBCI funding to promote entrepreneurship

In December 2022, seven additional states — Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia — were approved to receive up to $1.5 billion from the U.S. Treasury under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). The funds are provided through the American Rescue Plan and are intended to promote small business growth and entrepreneurship, particularly for those in underserved communities who are recovering from the pandemic. Each state will operate between two and five programs with its funding to help small businesses obtain loans and investments.

In total, the funding for approved state plans comes to about $6.3 billion in SSBCI funding. This influx in funding for small businesses is causing more Americans than ever to start new businesses — over 5.4 million in 2021, according to a White House report.

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.

Interested in a small business membership?

Find out how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can help your company grow and thrive in today's rapidly-evolving business environment. Connect with our team to learn how a small business membership can benefit your bottom line and help you achieve your goals.