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How Small Businesses Can Undergo Digital Transformation

A survey conducted by Main Street America in late March and early April 2020 found that 80 percent of small businesses had been closed for some period of time over the past year, and nearly 60 percent said their revenue had decreased by more than 75 percent since the start of the pandemic. 

This crisis has hurt our Black, Latinx, and Asian American communities the hardest.

To adapt to this new normal of day-to-day operations, small businesses are realizing digitalization is no longer an option, but a matter of survival. However, capacity for change varies widely among small businesses, and often along racial lines, with Black-owned businesses having more trouble establishing an online presence for their companies. 

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Start Small Think Big provides free legal, financial, and marketing support for thousands of under-resourced small businesses across the country. According to our own client survey data collected over the past year, close to half of all Black-owned businesses we serve (45 percent) report not using any online distribution channel (compared to 39 percent of white-owned businesses). And one-third of Black-owned businesses report not having a website, compared to only 15 percent of white-owned businesses. 

Using tech

The concept of digital transformation is pretty simple; basically, leveraging technology to improve one’s business. When an entrepreneur moves from using a shoebox to store handwritten receipts to entering sales into a cloud-based accounting system, or a local food business launches online ordering, that business undergoes digital transformation.

But putting this into action is a different matter entirely. Most digital technologies provide possibilities for efficiency gains and customer acquisition, but automating a bad process doesn’t magically turn it into a good process. You need to look at your business operations holistically. 

Sometimes digital transformation can involve making difficult choices, embracing a new business model, or even targeting a new audience. If people lack the right mindset to change and the current company vision is unclear, digital transformation will simply magnify those challenges.

Staying ahead

The bottom line is that digital transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s true that digital transformation is about taking proactive steps to incorporate new technologies into your business model, but sometimes, even more importantly, it’s about making uncomfortable changes earlier than you anticipate, or reconsidering something that in the past has worked well for you, but may not be the best option anymore. 

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Start Small Think Big harnesses the expertise of top lawyers, financial experts and marketing professionals who are passionate about supporting small businesses. Last year alone, we engaged over 4,600 volunteers who provided pro bono legal, financial, and marketing services valued at over $23 million. Each Start Small Think Big client — with whom we work one-on-one — receives over 45 hours of assistance over the course of a year, valued at $30,000. Our services are completely free.

Start Small Think Big can help small businesses figure out their broader business context and strategy in order to prepare them to make the critical shift to digital. Digital transformation can be big for small businesses. Make a smart investment. 

Join us. Visit to become a client, volunteer, or make a donation. We’re all for small. Are you?

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