Both new and experienced entrepreneurs from throughout the region met at the Lake Gaston Lions Club in Henrico for a Small Business Summit on Oct. 24. The summit, presented by CenturyLink, was the sixth such free event organized by the VGCC Small Business Center, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County, the Warren County Economic Development Commission and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center.
This time, the event’s theme was “Making the Holidays Pay Off,” with a focus on helping local businesses plan for the upcoming holiday season with innovative marketing practices. Serving as keynote speakers were Kristen Baughman and Stacey Price Sprenz, both of Raleigh-based Tabletop Media Group. Baughman is also a Warren County resident. The two discussed ways for businesses to take their social media marketing to the “next level” ahead of the holidays. Sprenz, a photographer, noted that social media posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts. “People will stop for a moment to view your image, and then that gives you an opportunity to communicate about your brand,” Sprenz said. “That includes not just photos, but also graphics and logos.”
Among their other tips for social media were “keeping it simple,” taking customers behind the scenes of a business and creating holiday-themed posts that were fun and interactive. Baughman also suggested, “In your posts, don’t talk only about yourself but also about your vendors, your customers and others in your community. Also, you should like, comment on and share the posts of other local businesses.” She covered the use of hashtags and of video on social media, including the advantages of Facebook Live. “We recently used Facebook Live to broadcast a pumpkin cheesecake eating contest for a client,” Baughman recalled. “It can be great, but you need to make sure you have a plan and that you have good wi-fi bandwidth.” The presenters also covered Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, which has a particularly large following among college students.
The opening session of the Small Business Summit was “Shop Local — Buy Local — Invest Local to Gain More Business for You and Your Area” with presenter Martin Brossman. He discussed how technology can help businesses promote themselves and the communities in which they operate. Examples included Yelp, Google and social media hashtags like #ShopLocal and #BuyLocal. “Review other businesses in your town online and encourage customers to review you,” Brossman said. He added, “Be a champion of good news in your town. Understand the unique offerings of your town and amplify what you already have.”
Lisa Gingue, who co-owns Vino Oasi in Stem and The Hub in Oxford, was the next presenter, with “Holiday Event Planning for the Small Business Owner.” She offered tips for what to consider when planning a special event to attract customers, including the time it takes to plan and promote it, space needs, budgeting and gauging support from the community. “You want your event to be great right out of the gate,” Gingue said. “There are things you can cut back on and still have a successful event, but don’t cut back on your advertising, the quality of your products or your staff.” She also suggested that small business owners can add value to their event by knowing their regular customers well, giving them incentives in the form of “exclusives,” repeatedly thanking them and surveying them after events.
Finally, Brossman made a second presentation, this one on taking photos “like a pro” for use with social media. “I’m an extreme amateur photographer,” the longtime business trainer and author said, crediting professional photographer Charles Register for helping him with the presentation. “Social media has gotten more focused on photography lately, but people haven’t gotten better at taking pictures,” Brossman noted. “Remember, photography is all about either creating or capturing stories. Think like a photojournalist.” He offered basic tips on composition and light, as well as free or low-cost apps to download.
In addition to presenting sponsor CenturyLink, other sponsors were Halifax Electric Membership Corporation, The Warren Record, The Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer, WIZS 1450 AM, The Daily Dispatch and WARR 1520 AM.
For more information about the services provided by the VGCC Small Business Center, call Director Tanya Weary at (252) 738-3240 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Above: From left, Small Business Summit keynote speakers Kristen Baughman and Stacey Price Sprenz talk with VGCC Small Business Center Director Tanya Weary at the beginning of their presentation. (VGCC photo)
Above: Martin Brossman (right) addresses participants at the Small Business Summit. (VGCC photo)
Above: Granville County small business owner Lisa Gingue discusses holiday event planning at the Small Business Summit. (VGCC photo)
More photos: Check out our album from the summit on Flickr!