[image-2] The seventh annual Good Business Summit took place at several venues downtown on Thurs. Feb. 6. Hosted by Lowcountry Local First (LLF), the day-long event presented a series of panels and workshops that discuss various aspects of business in the modern world.

“We believe and hope that these sorts of events that address unique issues and opportunities, while still working towards the general goal of using business as a force for good, can reap major benefits for the Lowcountry as a whole,” Eileen Peters of LLF  says.
[content-1] Robust websites, social media, and old-fashioned creativity are invaluable tools for many entrepreneurs. In one morning panel, moderated by Katie Wells of K.E.W. Solutions, the impacts of these resources were discussed among a group of small business owners.

“How does that impact your business, now that online is so prevalent?” Wells asked the group.

Steve Lesniak, owner of furniture store Celadon Home, mentioned the 36,500 followers his business has on Instagram, but concluded that once people enter the store, it’s all about customer service. “Whether it’s product, hiring and firing, location, everything is customer service,” he said.

“Would you mind sharing how you had to evolve with the times?” the moderator asked.

“We have evolved to talk more about us and being really vulnerable and really humanizing ourselves,” said Erik Holmberg, founder of J. Stark, citing the damage Hurricane Matthew caused to their workshop. “I think most people relate to that and want to sort of champion us or be a fan of ours through that.”

In a Q&A section at the end of the panel, an audience member asked how a business can be found in a sea of competition.

“Networking, connecting people that need something, even if you’re not benefiting from it, yourself,” said Sarah Williams-Scalise of Blueprint Insurance. “Bags are great, and furniture is great, and mattresses are great, and insurance is super great, but they’re coming to our companies and our brands because of us at the end of the day. You’re your brand, you’re your product. Get out there.”

Liz Rennie, owner of the Charleston Mattress, recommended finding something small that can set a business apart for better search engine optimization. “For us, I’d say it’s that we still build flippable mattresses that are finished on both sides,” she said. “That’s just something that people who are old-school are like, ‘I’m looking for flippables.’ So, they put that in and that’s going to generate more attention for us.”

At other panels, discussions included proper social media, increasing communication skills, and how to monetize creativity. Peters explains that topics are chosen to address issues in the local business community. “Through our 2018 Local Business Survey, we found that the top challenges were hiring/retaining qualified workers, competition from online companies, competition from national chains, and accessing capital to grow businesses,” she says.

According to Peters, the Good Business Summit sees increasing attendance numbers every year. “By changing the date of the Good Business Summit from September, in the middle of hurricane season, to February, a time when a lot of people are still planning out those New Years Business Resolutions and goals, we were able to reach a lot more people who might not have been able to make it in years past.”