I have always been fascinated by business and what it takes to start and run a successful business. My grandfather owned a tiny general store during the Depression. My great-grandfather on mom's side owned a number of businesses in Marietta during the lates 19th and early 20th centuries. Some businesses prospered and some did not.
I have friends and relatives who have started businesses that have failed and that's always sad.
When I was in paralegal school I studied corporate law and it was the first time I was taught formally what it takes to start and maintain a successful small business. Although I went on to do only litigation, I never forgot those lessons.
A cupcake bakery close to my house failed about a year ago. I was sad, because the lady who started it was a friend of a friend, but I was not surprised. The cupcakes were yummy and I had tried several kinds. They weren't slap your mama good, though, and they were overpriced. This isn't New York or Los Angeles, where you can charge $3 for a small cupcake that's mostly frosting, and stay in business. Not when you can get a dozen okay cupcakes just down the street at Publix for $5.
I think that's the hardest thing for most businesses to do: research your market. Know what people in the community will and won't pay for your product. Markets vary, even within the same city. Someone in Buckhead expects to pay higher prices for food and merchandise. People who live in Tucker or Marietta or Avondale likely won't be willing to pay those hefty prices, however.
Since we now live in a digital age, it's crucial to have a solid presence on social media, if you're launching a new business. Most everyone I know spends a good bit of time on Facebook and Twitter. Folks my son's age or thereabouts [15-30] usually have Instagram and/or Snapchat accounts.
I don't have a business degree, but in recent years I have set out to learn as much as I could on my own about SEO [Search Engine Optimization] and terms like "click through" because as a writer today, it's vital to know how to discuss these terms and sound reasonably intelligent. Writing for business has never been more important or more technical. It's not just about coming up with a snappy ad slogan or copy for a magazine ad. Nowadays there's social media. Most businesses have websites and blogs. Most businesses don't want to write their own website copy or blogs. I can do that.
We live our lives online - for good or ill. I've bought and sold things on Craigslist. I've used Uber to get around. I've been on Facebook and clicked LIKE on the page of a business that a friend suggests. We all belong to many communities now - both in the real world and the virtual world.
I think this is good and bad.
Sites like Yelp and Angie's List are an instant way to check out a business. I've pondered going out to eat and then seen that Yelp gave the particular restaurant bad ratings, and reconsidered. Is that entirely fair? Debatable. I've actually seen job ads for writers willing to go on sites like Yelp or Goodreads or Amazon and post good reviews, in order to boost sales.
I've found myself explaining to my kids that back in the day if we wanted to get a phone number or find a dry cleaners we opened up these big old paper phone books. There was NO GOOGLE. We lived in a pre-Google world and we survived. We used paper maps. We called up and asked for directions and wrote them down on paper.
Ah, the good old days.
I like the age we live in. I hated spending hours in libraries researching. I much prefer Googling.
The challenge for small businesses, though, is to have a solid online presence and be high in the Google rankings. If you're trying to sell cupcakes in Tucker, you need to be at the top of page one when someone Googles "Tucker cupcakes." So you need to update your website and blog often, and get folks to come visit it with great content they want to see.
Then you need to offer a great product and work your tail off to find new customers.
Sometimes it's just a matter of luck, unfortunately.
As for me, I will keep teaching myself how to help businesses by writing killer blogs and websites, and of course conducting the occasional personal taste-test. [Thank God for elastic waisted pants...]