Tech tools give minority-owned small businesses a chance at persisting through outbreak | Opinion

(Source: VXXXV Apparel screen capture)

 By Tirsa Vazquez

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated many small businesses, especially those owned by minorities.

It’s upsetting to see the economic gains these communities have made over the past few years get erased as documented in the news.

It’s truly a frightening time for so many, but there is hope thanks to the safety net of digital tools for small business owners like myself.

As the owner and CEO of VX Apparel, my casual, streetwear apparel brand exists entirely without a brick-and-mortar location. Instead, I operate an e-commerce site. And with the challenges faced by storefronts across the U.S. as a result of the pandemic, I recognize that we are fortunate to keep our operations up and running.

One of the biggest challenges of operating a retail business without a storefront location is drawing new customers in. Once again, digital technology is there to help.

Online platforms have allowed us to build a successful business and a better experience for our customers, and we have the metrics to prove it.

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We have seen a 60% year-over-year growth in revenue since engaging Google’s advertising program, with more opportunities to expand every day. Giving customers exactly what they are looking for is, of course, the goal of any business. Digital advertising technologies take this same approach by putting our brand in front of online shoppers looking for what we have to offer.

Despite what you may hear from elected officials, presidential candidates, and even our attorney general, the technology industry is working for countless communities across the country, including for a small Latina business owner like me.

I worked hard to get where I am.

As a young mother attending college classes at night and fulfilling the obligations of the Air Force Reserve, I never fit the profile of the typical entrepreneur. But learning to leverage the availability of digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Google has given me the ability to simultaneously grow a business and raise a kid right here in Pennsylvania.

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These free platforms continue to be a cornerstone of our business. Building a brand today is just as much a showcase of lifestyle and cultural ambitions as it is about the actual set of products you sell, and Instagram and Facebook have allowed me to do just that.

And as folks batten down the hatches during this period of necessary social distancing, being able to stay engaged with customers over social media has been key.

The accessibility of these platforms is yet another value-add to our operations – and my family life as a small business owner.

In those pre-pandemic days, if I was attending a fashion event or picking up my kid from school, digital platforms allowed me to check in with my team and keep up to date with the latest inventory.

Especially today, as so many members of professional community work from home, it’s more important than ever to have access to digital platforms that enable close coordination and communication at a distance.

These are such tough times for all of us and it’s important for us to support each other. I want my fellow entrepreneurs to know these technology tools can be the key to helping your business transition and stay afloat during this crisis- and beyond.

I know the political rhetoric surrounding big tech will continue, but I would encourage all officeholders to recognize stories like mine – stories that prove a young mother can grow a fashion brand to be reckoned with, capable of maintaining our operations through a global pandemic, thanks to a little help from technology.

Tirsa Vazquez is the founder & owner of VXXXV Apparel, a casual, streetwear apparel brand, based in Philadelphia.