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It’s a Wonderful Digital Life

George Bailey never knew how much he mattered until he didn’t exist. He is the perfect metaphor for imagining a Christmas without digital tools for small businesses – a future that may come to pass if Congress meddles in the technology space.

Bailey is the beloved banker of Bedford Falls in the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He defends and protects the working class against the greedy, conniving Henry Potter until Potter snares Bailey in one of his evil plots. The fallout leaves Bailey contemplating suicide until the angel-in-training Clarence shows Bailey how bad Bedford Falls would be without him.

Like the working class of Bedford Falls, small business owners in the 21st century are living a wonderful digital life. Their George Bailey is a technology industry whose innovations fuel entrepreneurial dreams. But Big Government could bring their heyday to an end.

To see how bad Christmas futures could get, look no further than the stories of the digitally empowered small businesses featured in our “LIFT” series.

“Our company wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Internet,” said Paul Serra, the co-founder of Suddora. The maker of sports accessory apparel relies on technology not only to process sales around the world but also to collect and analyze data about customers and peak sales periods. New anti-technology laws would be like coal in Suddora’s stocking.

A Christmas without digital tools literally would be a Christmas without business for Ohio-based Print Syndicate. The company’s entire operation – memorializing social media trends on apparel, housewares, and other products – depends on people sharing quips, quotes and memes online. That’s also where all of the sales occur, with the company purchasing Facebook and Instagram ads to showcase the goods.

Digital platforms also breathe new life into traditional businesses. Three of them come to mind from the “LIFT” series – Espinoza Boot Maker in Arizona, the board game manufacturer Crisloid in Rhode Island, and Pietro NYC Handbags in New York.

David Espinoza has been making boots since 1968 and bought a brick-and-mortar shop in Arizona when the chance arose. Now he is benefiting from 21st-century innovations like the Square mobile payment service.

Jeff Caruso remade Crisloid from a volume manufacturer of board games to one that sells high-quality games directly to consumers online. To drive brand awareness, the company is all over Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Alex Dabagh followed a similar path to save the designer handbag business his father built. As sales at retail stores and trade shows tanked, he turned to the Internet to engage a new audience for Pietro Handbags NYC, overhauling its website and redirecting money for trade shows to online advertising, among other digital investments.

All three businesses are around this holiday season, but they might not survive an onslaught of costly regulations aimed at the innovators behind the powerful digital tools of the 21st century. The burden inevitably would trickle down to small businesses.

For instance, the savings that Espinoza Boot Maker scores through Square could disappear, making the company more vulnerable in a market with tight margins. And the costs of brand-enhancing online ads could soar for Crisloid and Pietro NYC Handbags.

These are just a few of the millions of small U.S. businesses whose fates could be in jeopardy. For their sake, let’s hope Henry Potter doesn’t hold sway on Capitol Hill.

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