Jasper, Indiana (May 1, 2023) – Small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy. Each year, millions of Americans turn their passion into their profession and become entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, within the first two years, 30% of small businesses will fail, according to Entrepreneur.com.
Connected Nation is spending Small Business Week 2023 showcasing a handful of small businesses. These five businesses are from different areas, different industries, and are in different stages of their life cycle.
What is the one thing all these entrepreneurs and employees have in common? Their proficiency with digital literacy and in using the internet to help run their business.
The first business Connected Nation had the chance to speak with was American Mercantile, a men’s clothing store in Jasper, Indiana, founded by 35-year-old Broc Litherland.
Broc opened American Mercantile in 2022 with the vision of a store in Jasper that caters to “young men, or bachelors who lead busy lives and can rely on American Mercantile to supply their in-style casual, active, outer, and dress wear quickly and comfortably.”
Jasper is a town of just over 15,000 people, but it’s a hub of business and weekend activity for residents of Southwest Indiana. The men’s clothing market in Jasper is satisfied only by online shopping or an hour drive to Evansville. As Broc said when asked for his advice for budding entrepreneurs, “Find a need, fill a need.”
American Mercantile has a slight leg up when it comes to digital literacy because Broc was in his 20s during the social media boom. This allowed him to become proficient with the technology that would eventually help him run his business — long before he knew how important it would be.
However, the internet encapsulates an entire world of business resources beyond just social media. When asked, “What day-to-day aspects of American Mercantile are reliant on the internet?” Broc replied, “My Square is hooked up to the internet. My inventory, my financial reports, and making payments are all run through this software.”
Square is a point-of-sale software that combines in-person and online payment processing with a full suite of mobile, retail, and online sales and business management tools in one streamlined package.
The first hurdle for many business owners to use this point-of-sale software is access to a reliable internet connection. However, the second hurdle is the lack of digital literacy to run and operate a computer, a point-of-sale terminal or online business resources. Even if an entrepreneur is comfortable with email or Square, digitally managing inventory or finances may present challenges.
With this is mind, Broc was asked, “Is there anything you struggled with while starting your business?” To which he responded, “Building our website has presented challenges. However, getting organized with our profit/loss statement was very important to figure out. Whether it’s purchasing hangers, or figuring where that belongs in the profit/loss statement was a struggle.”
As far back as the days of blacksmiths and shoemakers, gaining a market share in your local community has always been rule No. 1 in surviving in business. The days of paying thousands of dollars for billboards and radio advertisements have passed, making way for a cheaper and more effective alternative — digital marketing. Digitally literate entrepreneurs with an understanding of social media can now position their product or services on the timelines of a target audience for next to no money.
Broc was also asked, “How does American Mercantile use the internet to gain a competitive advantage?” To which he replied, “We are working on our website. When you live in the Small Town, U.S.A., some people either aren’t interested or your market isn’t big enough. We are looking to take our business to the next level through the internet. We often investigate how to we can separate ourselves in marketing online, with product names, social media captions, SEO (search engine optimization), and so on. How do we get a consumer to stop on our profile and learn more?”
The American Mercantile case study shows how important digital literacy is to any business. Broc is a young, intelligent entrepreneur with a great business plan as a first entrant into the men’s clothing market in his local community. However, without his experience with online financing, inventory, and digital marketing, and his knowledge of the Square’s B2B capabilities, American Mercantile would not be in the position it is today, just a year after opening.
Join us again on the blog tomorrow for Day 2 of Small Business Week 2023! We will be featuring Schaefer Construction, which operates in the greater Cincinnati area.
About the Author: Grant Ahlbrand is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Connected Nation. He is a senior at Western Kentucky University, where he is majoring in social media marketing.
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