Graham and Greenlee County businesses can get a boost to market themselves online through a grant and training opportunities.
The Graham County Chamber of Commerce unveiled its Limelight grant program on Monday. Limelight is hosted by the chamber for local businesses to sign up to receive global online and website analysis and online media advertising grants. Visiting www.limelight.team online, any business owner or nonprofit organizer of Graham and Greenlee can apply.
“I am very happy to be able to help small businesses with their Google Maps, Facebook and their websites, just to make sure their correct information is available,” said Vance Bryce, executive director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce. . “A lot of times we’re so busy running our businesses that we forget that there are all these tools online that we don’t keep up with. We, as a chamber, and this team and this Limelight program are therefore happy to support you. “
The program itself is in person. The applicant will apply to the Limelight program online, and a member of the Limelight program will schedule an appointment to review the business owner‘s online presence. After reviewing the online presence, the Limelight Program Assistant will help the candidate delve into various forms of online marketing, which will be paid for through the Limelight Grant.
The money that pays for the Limelight program is part of a $ 45,000 grant from the Chamber of Commerce, Governor Doug Ducey awarded to the Graham County Chamber in December. While some of the funding was spent on paying chamber employees, a large portion of the funding from that allowance went to the Limelight program, Bryce said.
One of Bryce’s goals is to help local businesses update their hours of operation online. Updating those lists will be one of the easiest ways to help their businesses, he said.
The chamber has partnered with the Safford Downtown Association, the Eastern Arizona College Small Business Development Center, and the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties on this project.
Danny Smith, president of the Safford Downtown Association, worked with the chamber on the Limelight program. For Smith, the fact that every business owner will have a unique experience based on their business and needs is one of the best parts of the program. Teaching local business owners how to go online was a different challenge, he said.
“They don’t need a workshop and a new program,” Smith said. “They need more hours in the day. I think the coolest thing about it is we’re going to come and sit down and show them how to use it and follow up with them.
Some local businesses need help with graphic design, others may benefit from an online marketplace, he said. Almost any local business will likely benefit from knowing how to market on social media and use social media, he said. Although Graham and Greenlee counties have internet access and are online, some business owners cannot find the time to learn how to scale their online business presence.
“Business owners are busy and they are experts in their field. Some of our small business owners know how to bake, fix your car, and make tacos. They know how to buy and sell cute clothes. But that doesn’t make them a tech or social media expert, ”he said.
Dorsha Frye, president of the Greenlee County Chamber of Commerce, said she was excited about the Limelight grant opportunity.
“I think this is a great opportunity for businesses and nonprofits in Greenlee and Graham counties,” she said.
Due to varying hours, many stores have changed their hours of operation online. However, business is now back to normal, but the hours shown online have not changed. Having a member of the Limelight program come to visit every business owner and help them update their schedules online and websites would be a plus, she said.
Jared Wallace, a board member for the Greenlee County Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the Limelight program will help provide additional resources for rural businesses. He said he hopes the program will help businesses in Greenlee County with social media advertising and Google search engine optimization.
“COVID has hit many businesses hard, but especially small businesses. Big business can do layoffs and cutbacks, but they have the resources and the manpower to deal with these kinds of events. Unfortunately, local rural businesses don’t have these kinds of resources, ”he said. “What we’re trying to do with this grant is provide additional resources.
Wallace is the owner of an information technology company and he said he has seen how business has evolved online due to COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, for a lot of the mom-and-pop stores here, they rely heavily on word of mouth and in-person visits. They don’t have a lot of websites and online advertising, ”he said. “This grant is designed to help them have an online presence to be able to compete and survive in today’s economy.”
This Limelight program is specifically designed to help older generation business owners who may be missing out on internet advertising and other online opportunities, he said.
“The rate of online communication is sky-high, and all of these businesses are basically missing this entire part of the economy,” Wallace said. “The Greenlee County Chamber of Commerce has not forgotten local businesses and we are getting back on track and doing so as part of a renewed effort to help our local businesses.”
Weston Wiltbank, owner of WBNK Media, is one of the people who will help local business owners optimize their online presence. There are several reasons why so many business owners haven’t made the leap to online optimization and advertising, he said.
“It’s hard to change, but they don’t know how, and they’ve never had a guide to help them before,” he said.
Wiltbank said having a social media presence is one of the best things a small business can do for itself. Thanks to her experience, after a business goes online through social media, it drives business exponentially.
“We are delighted to be working with many local businesses to help them take the next step and to the next level and create more income for their business and in turn create more jobs for the community,” said Wiltbank.