COVID-19 illuminated the importance of having a digital footprint for small businesses, with so many being forced to shutter or transition to a virtual environment practically overnight. Verizon believes technology is a powerful tool in both aiding these businesses in recovery and helping aspiring small business owners kickstart their dreams, which is why the company created the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program.
Launched in 2021, Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is a comprehensive online curriculum designed to give small businesses personalized tools, including learning modules, expert coaching, peer networking, and incentives that can be utilized to help small businesses thrive in the digital economy. The program was created with and for small business owners and the organizations that work alongside them, with a specific focus on helping diverse and under-resourced business owners have access to the resources they need. Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provides an easy, free way for users to expand and grow their skill sets, with technology at the forefront of their solutions.
At launch, the specific goals were to:
Reach minority-owned businesses with resources to overcome systemic barriers and create meaningful impact for their businesses through access to digital transformation tools
Grow the percentage of participating small businesses that remain in business 12 months after starting Verizon Small Business Digital Ready
Increase revenue growth and/or staff for participating businesses six months after starting the program
Engage with a wide breadth of small businesses across industries
Designed to empower and equip small businesses with personalized resources and knowledge needed to thrive in today’s digital economy, the free, comprehensive online program includes more than 30 courses, opportunities for mentorship, 1:1 coaching and networking, as well as financial incentives.
Here’s how it works: Small business owners sign on to the platform and begin by answering a series of questions about their business, including their unique needs and areas of focus. Their responses inform recommendations across four key aspects of the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready platform.
These four key aspects are:
Online courses that cover the most pressing issues business owners are facing in 2022, including financial planning, cybersecurity, digital marketing, content creation, search engine optimization, and website optimization
Networking opportunities catered to under-resourced small business owners lacking industry connections, allowing users to share information and tips and engage in potential business development leads
Mentorship and expert guidance from diverse professionals, including Verizon’s own employees across legal, marketing, business planning, and more
Incentives, including product discounts from Verizon and the opportunity to apply for financial grants of $10K
Given the wide breadth of topics covered within the platform, Verizon had to reach out to a diverse set of experts and small business owners to create a meaningful experience for as many visitors as possible.
This included working closely with a wide variety of community organizations to not only ensure Verizon is developing resources that are of value to small business owners but evolve the platform through the use of advisory boards, partner networks, and user surveys to meet the needs of users.
Further, to ensure small business owners are aware of this free resource, Verizon partnered with leading national organizations that serve diverse businesses, local grassroots business support organizations, and small business influencers to amplify awareness and educate users on new courses and grant opportunities. Verizon also works to share success stories of Verizon Small Business Digital Ready ‘power’ users, or frequent users, to further support their commitment to learning and growing their businesses through earned and social media and on their website.
As a leading provider of technology and communications services, Verizon is dedicated to moving the world forward through the power of its networks. Verizon Small Business Digital Ready is an extension of Verizon’s numerous efforts to promote the growth and health of the small business sector. During the pandemic, Verizon hosted the Pay It Forward Live concert series, which raised critical support for small businesses and engaged more than 90M people. Since then, Verizon has created a grant program for women- and minority-owned businesses to help support active Verizon Small Business Digital Ready users. The company has committed to providing 1M small businesses with digital skills training and tools to help them be better prepared for the digital economy by 2030.
In less than a year, over 100K small business owners have joined the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready platform. Of those users, 76% identify as BIPOC, 53% are women, and 60% have a revenue of $50K or less. Users span a wide array of industries, including retail, personal care services, and professional services.
From surveys of 2,700+ business owners who signed up for the program:
48% said it has had an effect on increasing revenue
53% said it has had an effect on the increase of customers
99% said it will help their business
The success of this program is told by its users. Nakia Vestal, who runs DollMaker Lashes, overcame human trafficking and began working in beauty salons before starting her own business, with just $400 to her name. She struggled both with the effects of lockdown and with conventional business procedures since she lacked formal education. After receiving a $10K grant through the Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund, she began taking classes on the platform, including budgeting and social media. Today, Nakia credits the program with getting her business off the ground and growing it exponentially.
V’Esther Goode turned her passion for cooking into a full-time business. After 10 courses and individualized coaching sessions, V’Esther now knows how to track her finances, write a business plan, and target social media influencers, among other skills—all of which have enormously improved her confidence.
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