Small business owners in the Flatiron District were invited to Baruch College’s William and Anita Newman Conference Center on Tuesday, Oct. 25, to attend the 2016 Business Assistance Forum. Represented at the morning’s event were locals from creative industries, educational organizations and marketing firms, along with representatives from several other businesses.
The Business Assistance Forum is one of many events hosted by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. Since 2006, the BID has focused on improving the Flatiron District community and its reputation through neighborhood events and area improvement projects. The organization’s main programs focus on areas such as sanitation, public safety, marketing, social services and public improvements.
The program kicked off with a networking breakfast, followed by opening remarks from President Mitchel B. Wallerstein and Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership’s Executive Director Jennifer Brown. Attendees had the opportunity to speak with representatives from government agencies such as the NYC Department of Small Business Services and U.S. Small Business Administration, as well as faculty members from the Baruch College Division of Continuing and Professional Studies.
“So many small businesses see the importance of using digital marketing and social media for their businesses,” said Brown. “With so many more platforms coming online, many businesses realize that it’s really critical to be using those platforms to help get customers, to advertise their products and to advertise their services”.
Sabrina Kizzie, who is a marketing and social media professor at Baruch College, delivered the keynote address at the event, sharing her insight in new media technologies and navigational skills.
“All of your customers are not on the same social media platform,” said Kizzie. “You have to know where your target audience is and go to that social media platform.”
With more than 15 years of experience in the industry, Kizzie has been recognized in numerous publications such as Crain’s New York Business and Real Estate Executive Magazine. In addition, she was a featured speaker at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Conference and the MACs Women’s Entrepreneur Summit. Following her speech, attendees had the opportunity to participate in one of four workshops that focused on branding, digital marketing and leadership.
“As a small business owner you have to know how to make sure that you lead people and you have to make sure you understand how to manage them. They are two very different things,” said Denise Patrick, who led the morning’s only leadership-focused workshop, titled “Leading and Managing People.
Patrick, who is also a communication studies professor at Baruch College, focused on managers and their impact on employees. She challenged her audience to identify the difference between management and leadership so that the participants could effectively use their influence not just at the workplace but in the neighborhoods outside of it.
“When you manage a social media process or you manage a strategy, you are thinking about processes,” said Patrick. “When you are leading your people to do that, you are thinking about how to influence those individuals to help you… Your managing and leadership doesn’t happen only in your business, it happens in your communities.”
In the room across from Patrick’s, Jessie McGuire and Trenton Kenagy from ThoughtMatter, a design and strategy studio in midtown Manhattan, held a workshop on the foundational blocks for building a brand of small businesses. During the first half of the session, the group discussed the history of branding and its development over the years. Toward the end, the focus of the workshop shifted to social media and the meaning of building a brand around it today.
“Don’t do social. Be social,” said McGuire, who is the executive strategy director at ThoughtMatter. McGuire and Kenagy pointed out that “through technology the sharing of ideas, thoughts and messages has become progressively easier. But this evolution has challenged the context, relevancy and humanity of communication.”
McGuire shared that by thinking of social media as a conversation and by understanding which platforms to use and which not to use, individuals could maintain the authentic, relevant and human art of a conversation through social media.
Concurrently, Terry Rice, a digital marketing instructor at General Assembly, led his own workshop on the Fundamentals of Facebook Marketing. Facebook has established itself as one of the most powerful outlets for digital advertisers in the world of social media. Rice shared his experience of developing profitable marketing solutions, as well as some of the nuances in Facebook marketing, so that businesses “could get past the initial hurdle and learn how to use the platform.”
In the faculty lounge, Spider Graham, who is a professor at Baruch College, discussed how businesses, regardless of size and resources, could maximize their use of digital media channels. In his workshop, titled “Taking Down Your Marketing Goliath,” Graham, who is also the founder and CEO of Trainingcraft, engaged his audience by using hands-on activities that taught business owners the power of digital marketing.
“Some of the platforms that exist now that people think of more as a personal social media platform are also starting to catch on with businesses,” said Brown. “They realize that if they want to reach that generation of people, they need to go through different avenues to do it.”