The Challenges of Running a Small Business

by | Jul 23, 2019

By Guest Blogger, Judith Soto, Owner of LaliSimone in the Laurel District

Staying Alive in the Age of Amazon

There are many challenges to running a small business and statistics don’t lie. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new small businesses will not survive past their first year. Alarmingly, 50% will fail by their 5th year, and another 70% will fail their 10th year. Those numbers are startling for a small business owner like myself who operates alone on a shoestring budget in the very expensive Bay Area. To make matters more challenging, Amazon has been disrupting retail since its launch. It’s forced giants like Walmart and Target to rethink their businesses just to compete with the behemoth.

The Competitive Advantage of Small Businesses

Do small local businesses even stand a chance? I think so! Amazon sells convenience and access to mass-produced products. But it doesn’t contribute to local economies that help schools, small businesses, or their communities. In contrast, local businesses build, foster, and cultivate community and are direct and positive contributors to their local economy.

While small local businesses have this distinct advantage over Amazon, this alone does not keep the lights on.

Everyday Challenges to Running an Independent Shop

In talking to my business peers, there’s a recurring theme in our struggle to keep going: building awareness, generating demand, turning window shoppers into customers, and keeping them coming back. It’s hard ya’ll! And I haven’t even mentioned money, time, mental bandwidth, and resilience. Not to mention, the general knowledge needed to get started.

In my opinion, a lot of answers to the challenges we local business owners face lie at the intersection of technology, process, and people. The fact is — our customers are online and offline. We need to learn and leverage modern technologies and digital marketing practices to reach them and keep them coming back. The fact is – more and more people buy online but thirst for (and expect) offline experiences that offer a human touch. Interpersonal experiences can literally make or break your customer loyalty.  It’s a process, but one that is critically important to the survival of our businesses. The fact is – while digital channels are seemingly free advertising and help us become global, our customers lean towards the tactile experience of touching, seeing, smelling and trying on our products before they spend a cent. It’s been true for me at my vintage boutique, LaliSimone.

Finding the Best Solution: Collaboration and Technology

Sarah Stefaniuk and Judith Soto

Sarah and Judith engage in a lively conversation about the importance of small businesses.

So how do we as a city, a state, or a nation meaningfully support and enable small business owners to thrive and succeed? For one, I believe we have to use the resources that are available to us (technology and community), partner and collaborate with organizations and like-minded people that are passionate advocates of local business. This is where LOCALMOTIV comes in. 

When I met Sarah and learned the story behind LOCALMOTIV, I had mixed reactions. First, I was in awe with the premise of a technology who singularly focuses on supporting local businesses and their owners. Then, I was surprised that such a technology didn’t already exist, and I was thrilled it’s woman-owned and fiercely driven by the belief that thriving local businesses are at the core of a healthy local economy, foster and nurture community, and have a positive impact on the environment. I, for one, need a LOCALMOTIV to help me drive awareness and interest in my business. And I’m glad to have Sarah and her team in my corner.

Sarah’s note: There are two other fantastic women behind the scenes making this all happen: Ivetta and Danielle. Ivetta is developing the Oakland indie one-stop online shopping community. Danielle is a US Naval Officer and “get it done” operations type. I just have the fun job of going out and visiting all the stores and meeting the proprietors! Yes, they are jealous.



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