Small biz relies on digital advertising to build community

Six years ago, I made a truly consequential decision to follow my dreams and start my own small business. I knew this decision was not without risk and the failure rate for small businesses was high. But I also knew I had the determination to support my family and pursue my passion in creating memorable experiences for others by starting an event decorating company.

I am grateful to say despite the many struggles I endured to get the business off the ground, THEME Party Creations thrives today. This is due in no small part to the creative and entrepreneurial forces that drove me, the support I received from family and friends and the expert consulting services provided by a community non-profit. Of course, it was also necessary to get the word out THEME was open for business. That means advertising.

Our success at THEME in curating personal celebrations, such as weddings, birthdays, corporate meetings, conferences and networking events required attracting customers and winning their business. Hanging out a shingle was just the start; I knew attracting customers meant promoting THEME and building connections with the community.

For me, THEME symbolizes my gratitude for having the opportunity to engage with and contribute to the town and surrounding area where I was raised and live. Although I grew up in poverty and faced many hurdles throughout my life, I am deeply appreciative of my roots and for living in a community that enabled me to lift myself up and realize my full potential.

Sharing those values and creating distinctive events that bring excitement and joy to others is at the heart of THEME’s marketing efforts. Advertising is a lifeline for us to reach out to the community and share our journey, building connections that enhance social bonds, mutual growth and understanding.

In today’s modern digital economy where so much of our life is online, small businesses such as THEME are smart to leverage digital platforms to reach the broader market through advertising. We embraced online marketing tools and believe they have enabled us to reach more people and showcase our innovative mix of solutions.

Our ability to continue to use digital advertising is under threat, however, by government overreach. Excessive regulation on digital advertising has the potential to chill the use of these essential online channels for generating awareness and attracting customers to our services and those offered by other small businesses.

It is important to recognize digital deceptions are real, and there is no question of the need for effective enforcement against various forms of online misinformation. Protecting the privacy of personal information online is also essential for our digital economy to flourish. At the same time, we also should not, as they say, let perfect be the enemy of the good.

There is no ironclad guarantee more laws and regulations will prevent deceptive online practices and eliminate theft of personal information. Malign actors have and will always exist. Rather than tightening the noose even further on regulating digital advertising, the government should effectively enforce laws already on the books and help educate consumers and businesses on steps that can make online experiences safer.

What is most concerning to me and, I suspect, other small businesses about the prospect of overly restrictive government regulation of digital advertising is the winners and losers that will result. Policymakers should also be concerned if they genuinely want our communities and small businesses to prosper.

In the winning column are large, national companies that rely less on digital advertising to reach consumers and grow their businesses. Companies like Amazon, Walmart and Target are highly unlikely to experience a decrease in consumer awareness if additional online advertising restrictions are imposed by the government.

On the losers’ side of the ledger are small businesses, such as THEME, and consumers. Small businesses will be more likely to refrain from using the digital domain to build relationships with consumers, and consumers will be less aware of the options they have to support the local economy.

The arc of my journey as an entrepreneur has been to grow my business through online advertising, a vital channel that embodies my business’s commitment to visibility, dialogue and community engagement. Let’s not quash the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs — like I once was — by making it more difficult for small businesses to use our modern digital channels to build vital community connections.