Local Businesses Get Tech Savvy to Compete with Online Stores This Holiday Season

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It can be tough for small businesses to compete with online giants such as Amazon all year long, but it's especially difficult around the holidays. The owner of local art gallery, Five Monkeys,  Dina Bechman said the hardest part is getting people out of their houses and into these local stores. 

“If you can look through 17 different options, click and have it at your door the next day, we’re up against a big challenge,” Bechman said.

For Bechman, that’s the biggest challenge. In years past most consumers bought art in stores. However, things have changed. An online art trade report done by the insurance company Hiscox stated that online art is set to be an $8.3 billion business by 2023. Most consumers also are finding their art on Facebook and Instagram. Which is why Bechman and hundreds of others have added a digital component to their businesses. Bechman says using social media as a marketing tool, can help small businesses get the word out about their services for a cheaper cost. 

“We have to band together and help each other and lift our whole small business communities up. Versus having hundreds of dollars to throw at an ad campaign. It’s more grassroots and it’s more community-based, which social media helps a lot,” Bechman said. 

Last week Facebook held a holiday bootcamp at the River Center. At this event, attendees took part in an interactive workshop to teach local businesses how to gain followers, spread their reach, and make sure they’re engaging their target audience on social media. For Bechman, sometimes the most important part about these events is networking with other small companies and acknowledging what they all bring to the community. 

“We’re a part of the community and we give back to the community through donations and charities, through fundraisers, through supporting each other with our dollars,” Bechman said. “We have a choice with every dollar that we spend to send it off into corporate ‘lalaland’ or keeping it here in Des Moines, in the community.”

The Community Development Manager at Facebook, Matt Sexton, says that small businesses are very important to central Iowa’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, local businesses in Iowa employ 600,000 people across the state. However, Bechman says small businesses aren’t in it for the money. They love what they do and want to keep serving central Iowa. 

“I didn't start a small business trying to be a millionaire. I really just want to do something I love, give back to my community and make enough to pay my house payment and put the kids through college,” Bechman said. 

Last year, Facebook committed a billion dollars to invest in small businesses. Sexton also said Facebook considers central Iowa home because its data center is located in Altoona.  So this wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last, event Facebook will host for local businesses in Des Moines.  Many local businesses in the area are also gearing up for shop local Saturday this Thanksgiving weekend.



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