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  • Lily Cope

Do you have what it takes to run a business?

by Lily Cope

We all know and love big brands such as Saks Fifth Ave, Crumbl Cookies, and of course, beloved T.J. Maxx. But before these brands were big names in the retail world, they were small businesses just trying to make a name for themselves. 

But even getting a small business up and running is no small task. 

Indeed, the worldwide employment search website, says starting a business is starting with a plan and answering some important questions – what is the purpose behind your idea? What will your company offer that makes it stand out from similar brands? What target audience do you want to reach, and how will you market your brand? Who will you need to develop your business? 

Launching a successful small business involves much more than just envisioning an idea and opening a storefront or website. 

It requires fulfilling a need by providing a desired product or service that people will pay for.

But it also means having some capital to get started - something most small business owners don't have... or at least have enough. Numerous local, state, and federal regulations for getting off the ground can derail a small business before it even has a chance to make money.

Whether it's health and safety requirements, environmental safety laws or chemical hazard regulations that are created to benefit the consumer, they can still be very cost-prohibitive to small business owners.

Which means businesses need to get noticed - and do it fast.

Traditional news media coverage used to be the best publicity for a new business, but as local news outlets are struggling to cover their cities amid business struggles of their own, social media has become the prime marketing tool for a small business owner.

EP Jewels uses social influencing to market jewelry

Evangelina Petrakis used her passion for jewelry and the interest of her social media followers to start a YouTube channel featuring her jewelry.

The channel initially showed glimpses of her everyday life and how she styles her jewelry.  But it soon bloomed into a channel displaying her  “EP Jewels” collections. 

Petrakis took notice of how enthusiastic her 141,000 followers on YouTube were about how she styled her jewelry, which led to the creation of her now-thriving jewelry business. 

She advertises her jewelry by just simply wearing it and posting it on her YouTube channel. 

“[This] is the best idea that reflects my YouTube brand,” she said. 

Petrakis approaches the importance of building genuine connections with her audience by mixing her branding with entrepreneurial activity. 

“I don't want people to think I am advertising to them,” she said. “If people see that I am wearing something in every video or photo I post, they’ll see it and like it and chances are, they will buy it.” 

Her strategy represents a social media approach rather than a hard sell.

Block + Ink, Zest find success through influencers

The use of social influencers has helped promote Dylan Roukous's two main brands -- Block + Ink and Zest.

With both companies based out of Charleston, Roukous has used notable influencers such as Ellie Thuman to showcase Zest, a limoncello, and Block + Ink, a unique T-shirt brand. 

”It's social media-centric,” he said. “It's all about reaching people where they are; these platforms are where everyone is these days." 

Thuman has a large following on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, allowing Roukous’ products to reach a greater audience than ever before. 

By using social media, Roukous has projected his products to people who would have never come across his products.

As a small business, especially standing out, it can be tough to stand out above the competition. The trick is to have something unique to offer. 

Next Four Co gets personal

Evie Pursell of Next Four Co taps into local communities to create products that have a personal touch. 

"Since I do niche stuff for the towns and groups of people I live in, I find like niche things that we all say or things that we all look at,” she said. “I tap into that kind of market.” 

Based out of Southampton, New York, Pursell works by herself and says the first time she saw someone outside of Southampton in her shirt, she felt an overflow of accomplishment that her business is now in a wider market. 

Instagram revealed a business opportunity for a Reality TV star 

"Southern Charm" star Chris Conover launched a small business following an innocent Instagram post that inadvertently featured his sewing skills.

As a result of his Reality TV popularity, Conover had over one million followers on Instagram, and he realized they would be the perfect market for his pillow business.

“It was a Sunday and I was watching a Disney movie, but I had my three pillows off to the side," he said. "And I didn't make the post about the pillows, but I had a sewing machine in the picture and you know, everyone's response was like, ‘Oh my God, please tell me you showed them.’” 

Conover didn’t immediately know he wanted to go down a business career path. He initially had a passion for sewing and simply posted a picture of pillows he had sown on Instagram to share with his followers. 

Showcasing his passion for sewing on social media made his fans go crazy and started asking him if he would ever sell the pillows. 

Though Conover had fans telling him it was a great idea, he also had close friends and family telling him that maybe he should reconsider starting a sewing business. 

Despite the skepticism from others, Conover was determined to start a business that most men aren’t usually involved in. 

"I knew there was a demand for it because I tested it on Instagram,” he said. “Not a single person in my life thought Sewing Down South was a good idea. But just because no one else can see your vision doesn't mean it's a bad idea." 

Through his distinctive approach to advertising his brand, Conover has demolished stereotypes and created a niche market for his company. 

“Honestly, like not a lot of straight guys were sewing and in crafts and I was just like, ‘I think I can show people that you know, whatever you enjoy doing, regardless of what the stereotypes are, just do it.” 

Conover relies primarily on social media, but he has also been featured on the local news and worked with charities to get his brand noticed beyond the Instagram following. 

Advice from these business owners is to not be discouraged when starting any business. 

“[My parents] had a kid that went to law school and ended up on reality TV…so, they didn't really know what was going to happen," Conover admitted. "Never do what everyone else does, you know? Do whatever you enjoy doing, regardless of what the stereotypes are. Just do it.”


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