In today’s economy, online platforms and digital small business tools help entrepreneurs start and grow their business in countless ways. I know this personally, which is why I am very concerned that so many lawmakers, including Attorney General Letitia James, are attacking large internet companies, calling them too big or too powerful.
Without these companies and their small business services, my family’s handbag business would not be as successful, or perhaps even in business at all. Our elected officials need to hear this — from me and many other small businesses — before they try to force changes on digital platforms.
My family is living the American Dream. My father fled here to escape the devastating civil war in Lebanon. He started a handbag maker with only guts, determination and a vision. I grew up proudly watching my parents work hard and build something from nothing.
When I joined the business, I helped my them modernize the business, and that helped the company grow. They had followed the traditional brick-and-mortar wholesale model, networking at trade shows and relying on face-to-face meetings with corporate buyers and boutique owners. It worked for many years, but by 2013 our wholesale business model was challenged. Consumers were shopping in new ways and we needed to embrace e-commerce and start using digital solutions to improve product development, marketing and sales. We started a website and jumped headfirst into the new world.
Shopify made it incredibly easy to create a website that could sell product and ship it directly to consumers. PayPal and Square made payment processing easy and affordable. Google, Facebook and Instagram allow us to target potential customers, drive traffic to our website and tempt people with new products — and they are much less expensive and way more effective than TV and radio advertising. Google Analytics tells us about people visiting our website and what interests them so we can focus our advertising and be sure that our brand and products are being seen by the most likely customers. Gmail and MailChimp help us to communicate with consumers who want to know about sales, discounts and customer contests.
I’m not writing this to promote those companies. I’m writing this to be completely honest about how we managed to survive and thrive as a small business.
Our digital success has allowed us to drastically reduce travel and trade shows. These technologies and tools are essential to my family and our 40 employees and their families. And this is why I worry about elected officials aggressively trying to change how e-commerce and digital platforms operate.
Our family business cannot match the million-dollar marketing budgets or our big corporate competitors, but with the right tools, we can spend a modest amount of money and grow our business. We are lucky that so many big companies offer free and low-cost small business solutions. Lawmakers need to familiarize themselves with how essential these tools and platforms are for small businesses before they enact new laws that make our lives difficult.
This country was built by hardworking people starting small businesses with big dreams and a lot of moxie. Millions of small businesses are like our handbag company, employing people in our community and learning new tricks to stay afloat and grow. We certainly didn’t elect our leaders to make running a small business harder. They must understand how we operate before they make rash decisions that hurt us.
Dabagh operates Pietro Handbags, with his father Pierre, in Manhattan.