Search engine optimization. Social media. Tablet- and smartphone-friendly websites.
For all kinds of businesses, from suppliers of low-tech uniforms to makers of high-tech solar products, keeping up with information technology can be a challenge.
To help meet this challenge, Wendy Wen created Digital Compass, a program that links companies with web and IT needs to high-tech experts who can provide guidance on these issues.
The result? A match made in the Delaware Small Business Technology and Development Center (DSBTDC), where Wen has been a business analyst since 2007.
“Digital Compass has tremendous power to intersect two kinds of companies that need each other and tell their stories — one with a core business proposition and the other with strategic marketing expertise,” says DSBTDC Director Mike Bowman.
For her efforts in developing and piloting the project during the past year, Wen was named 2013 America’s Small Business Development Center (ASBDC) Star for Delaware. Within the ASBDC Network, each state designates an annual winner who is recognized for exemplary performance, significant contributions to the program, and a strong commitment to small business.
The Digital Compass matchmaking process comprises three steps. First, SBTDC advisers work with a company to identify and diagnose their problems, which can range from declining business to poor performance on search engines to creation of an online presence for a bricks-and-mortar store. Next, they identify and interview web/IT providers to get the best match. Finally, they coach both the business and the provider during the course of the project to achieve the best solution to grow the business.
Digital Compass got Eva Weissman and Karolin Lipman the help they needed to keep the doors to their 49-year-old family business, Susan’s Uniforms, open. Planet Ten, an interactive multimedia solutions provider, took the brand back to its foundation with a new identity that recalls the company’s early days: Modern fashion. Timeless service.
At the same time, Planet Ten brought the company into the 21st century with a new focus on social media. Now that the two business owners know how to use Facebook and Twitter in their daily activities, they’re seeing an increased social media audience, more foot traffic, and higher sales.
Janice Markopoulos, who owns Delmarva Board Sport Adventures, was linked with Fine Line Websites and IT Consulting through Digital Compass.
“We worked with Fine Line to identify specific projects we could do immediately to understand our web traffic, improve our search engine optimization, and do some longer-term planning with our e-commerce business,” Markopoulos says.
Digital Compass benefits both parties in the match, providing the web and IT partners with new business, the opportunity to share best practices through case studies, and sometimes even the chance to give back.
Through the program, Mobius New Media helped Herman’s Quality Meat Shoppe use the web and social media to better engage with the community. Mobius partner Barry Crell values the support he received from DSBTDC when the business was launched in 1996.
“Now, 17 years later, we can help other new companies be in a situation to succeed and get off on the right foot and build that strong foundation for success,” he says.
Wen points out that Digital Compass also challenges the center’s small business clients to think more strategically and holistically before they make web and IT investments.
Other companies assisted by Digital Compass during its pilot year include LiteCure, which provides advanced laser technology for medical and veterinary applications; NZINGA’s Cultural Connection, a family boutique that sells clothing, jewelry, soaps, and other specialty items; and Sun-in-One, which manufactures and distributes solar products.
Wen has invited six additional clients to participate in Phase II of the project. She is hoping to attract a sponsor for Digital Compass, which was initially funded by the federal Small Business Job Act program, so that it can become self-sustaining.
“Digital Compass has been embraced by all the clients in the pilot program, and we’re looking forward to expanding it in 2014,” Wen says. “I’m also planning to introduce it at our national conference next year to help other states start similar programs.”
About Wendy Wen
Wendy Wen is a business analyst in New Castle County and has been with the SBTDC since 2007. Prior to joining the organization, Wen performed marketing and financial analyses for Fortune 500 companies and start-up ventures, and she spent five years working in Shanghai, China. Her areas of expertise include market analytics, business intelligence, and e-business management.
Wen holds a bachelor’s degree in finance, a master’s degree in e-business, and an MBA. She enjoys empowering entrepreneurial-minded people to reach their business development potential and serving the growing women-owned and minority business community in Delaware.
The Delaware Small Business and Technology Development Center is part of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. The Delaware SBTDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the University of Delaware, the Delaware Economic Development Office, and Delaware State University.
Article by Diane Kukich