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Micro-Entrepreneurs Go Digital: How the Pandemic Stimulated Online Business Growth and Opportunities

by Deborah Pantaleon April 26, 2022

Deborah Pantaleon is the coordinator for the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project.

When the Covid pandemic swept through New York two years ago, our city looked to the online business community to access goods and services that were once found in brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, most business owners were forced to re-evaluate their business models to accommodate the growing demand for online shopping if they hoped to survive the pandemic.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt the business community, it is expected that the demand for ecommerce will continue to rise. In 2021, the US saw an increase in ecommerce sales of over 50% from 2019, with furniture, building materials and electronics cumulatively representing the fastest growing industry of e-commerce sales. In the same year, entrepreneurs filed a record-breaking number of applications to start a new business – 5.4 million to be exact.

Increased internet usage during the pandemic presented small businesses with opportunities for success. During this time, social media became a powerful tool for entrepreneurs looking to connect with consumers, develop brand awareness and generate website traffic – all with the goal to boost business.

During the first 18 months of the pandemic, the City Bar Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) focused heavily on providing assistance to small business owners who were disproportionally affected by the outbreak. Nearly two years later, NELP noticed a change in industry trends and a shift in the types of small businesses being developed — micro-entrepreneurs are developing business models intertwined with social media and ecommerce to meet the demand for online services.

Most recently, NELP was contacted by Alexandra Neudek, a Brooklyn-based micro-entrepreneur looking to start a social media agency tailored to assist small businesses primarily involved in pet care. Alexandra, an animal lover and proud cat mom, was inspired to form Alexandra Digital after working for a large online retailer in the pet industry. “I was blown away by how much of a cultural phenomenon it had become to be a devoted ‘pet parent’ and how many business opportunities it had left open. I knew after I left that I wanted to stay in the industry and ultimately decided to start a business,” she said.

As she developed a business model, Alexandra identified a trend amongst small businesses focused on pet care – many lacked a social media presence. When asked about it, she said:

“Social media is important for any business because it’s how the vast majority of adults get their information and look for services. Since most vets, doggy-day cares, and other services function as small businesses, their resources are limited. Further complicating the problem – most social media agencies are very expensive and don’t present options for budgets that work for small businesses.”

After identifying this service gap, Alexandra combined her experience as a freelance media coordinator with this newfound knowledge of the pet care industry to establish Alexandra Digital. Through her company, she aims to provide small businesses affordable options to grow their customer base through targeted social media strategies.

Alexandra’s story is similar to that of other NYC-based micro-entrepreneurs who have tried to make the best of the post-pandemic ecommerce market and have contacted NELP for legal assistance as they develop and grow their small businesses centered on online services. As New York City’s small business community recovers from the pandemic, NELP will continue to offer free legal services and resources to micro-entrepreneurs who seek to achieve financial stability through entrepreneurship.

This communication is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. Because all legal problems involve their own specific set of facts, this informational resource is not and should not be used as a substitute for independent legal advice. This informational resource also is not intended to create, and its receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Please contact competent, independent legal counsel for an assessment of your particular legal concerns, or contact our Legal Hotline (212.626.7383 or https://www.citybarjusticecenter.org/legal-hotline/) to determine whether you qualify for assistance from the City Bar Justice Center.

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