Tybee businesses increasing digital presence thanks to grant-funded boot camp

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:08 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - When COVID-19 hit, many businesses found out they were struggling because they had not established a good online presence.

With the help of the Beach Business Bootcamp on Tybee Island, several businesses have spent the last two months strengthening their digital marketing.

New and veteran business owners have been working hard on making sure their businesses are prepared for any future hardships.

“I’ve always been anti-social media, so it was definitely a learning curve for me. I felt like it would help me with my business especially coming out of a pandemic. I needed all the help I could get,” Seaside Sweets owner Rachel Jones said.

Since April 12, businesses on Tybee Island have been participating in the Beach Business Bootcamp. The program is built for businesses to improve their online presence.

“We decided after COVID-19, one of the biggest hurdles to their success and staying in business was that many of the businesses were not online,” Tybee Island Development Authority/Main Street Program Executive Director Michelle Owens said.

Jones has only owned her business since February. She says the courses are showing her that many of the old ways of doing business do not exist anymore.

“People really use social media to find you. Our phone never rings. People look on Google or Facebook or wherever to find out all the information. The hours, what we have and what we serve,” Jones said.

The trainings are twice a month from the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

“It’s really hands-on. We’ll sit there and log into peoples’ social media accounts and we’ll help them right on the spot to tweak things, so they don’t have to say, ‘I’ll get to it later’ and later never comes,” Owens said.

Jones says she is revamped the businesses’ old Facebook page and found a new love for a big digital marketing tool.

“The TikTok videos are a lot of fun,” Jones said.

Jones says it’s been fun to get out of her comfort zone and make things like how-to videos for her followers.

Owens says this kind of business education would typically cost a business anywhere from $2,000-$3,000 and they are getting it for free.

“It’s not just the bootcamp. You actually have them as a resource after it’s over. It’s not something that’s a one and done, it’s an ongoing relationship,” Owens said.

The bootcamp was put on thanks to a $10,000 grant from the National Main Street Program. Owens says if this grant comes up again for them to apply to, they will so that other businesses can reap the benefits. All the businesses will take July off from the program and then complete it in August.

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