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Opinion

Burdensome tech rules could cost America's small business
Digital platforms and tools are critical
 
Published Tuesday, April 7, 2020 12:00 pm
by Amy Stock

Determination and the internet – that’s how my husband and I started our candle company. It may sound strange, but more and more small businesses in North Carolina and around the nation are starting, growing, and thriving this way.


Sadly, some elected officials, are attacking the American tech companies that help make success stories like ours possible. As a very small and predominantly online company, virtually our entire business depends on low-cost digital platforms and tools. Lawmakers in Raleigh and Washington, D.C. need to appreciate that if the big platforms that help us suddenly are regulated and restricted, our little company and many like it may not survive.


Like so many small businesses, our story is unique. After hip surgery a few years back, I couldn’t move around much, and I desperately needed a hobby. A friend gave me a lovely candle, which eventually burned out. While searching for a replacement, I discovered that it was an expensive candle, not one you can buy at the local mall. It turned out that the candle’s ingredients were very high quality, and it was hand-crafted by a real “candlemaker.” I was hooked, and along with my husband, we committed to starting our own handcrafted candle business.


We literally Googled “how to start a small business,” and the information we found was priceless. YouTube became our tutor. It taught us how to make candles and how to create a website from scratch so we could sell our candles online. Since both of us still had full-time jobs, the convenience of operating strictly online was critical. We launched Charlotte Candle Company in 2017 with a website, GSuite, Facebook and Instagram – and a lot of determination.


It turned out that starting a small business was the easy part. The hard part was getting noticed and making money. We struggled for a while, and we came close to giving up. But when we discovered low-cost Google Ads that helped people find us, we were on our way. Since then, our website has been visited more than 200,000 times. We also use Facebook and Instagram to advertise in fun and engaging ways, and they’ve been a huge help in attracting new customers. Customer reviews and comments are among our favorite promotion strategies, and we are always trying to use creative content to generate more online engagement.


Our sales are now exploding so fast that my husband and I can’t manage all the work ourselves. It’s a nice problem, and we’re looking to hire someone, which makes us potential job creators. However, if new laws force our digital partners to change their methods or to break up into smaller companies, that would likely mean more expensive advertising, more expensive email, and more expensive analytics tools. If websites need teams of lawyers to look over every review or comment, that will surely raise costs for businesses that rely on honest, public customer feedback. In short, this all could mean we could no longer afford to hire, or even worse that we couldn’t afford the business.


I can safely say that our small business would not have been this successful without the affordable tools offered by Google, Facebook, and countless other tech companies. In this way, I know that our small business story is not unique.


We understand that big tech companies are not perfect and that some government regulation isn’t necessarily bad. However, breaking up companies or hitting them with burdensome regulations could cripple small businesses like ours that rely on digital tools to succeed in the 21st century digital economy. We hope lawmakers will think carefully before making decisions that could hurt so many small businesses – the backbone of our economy.    


Amy Stock is co-founder of the Charlotte Candle Company.

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