Shennice Cleckley didn’t even like computers when she decided to start a bakery and catering business, but now she is a fan of all sorts of digital tools. She relied on them to build her My Dessert Bar bakery in South Carolina, then moved it entirely online and finally to build another venture, Smart Cookie Coaching, to help budding entrepreneurs build new businesses.
The single mother of a teenage girl when she opened the bakery, Cleckley was motivated to succeed so she could support her family. She learned how to build a business by taking classes, networking and reading books. She also taught herself digital skills via Google and YouTube, a move that proved fortuitous after the physical store began to struggle. Cleckley shifted everything online and savored success all over again.
A host of technologies took My Dessert Bar to that point. They included Wix to build a website, Canva to design graphics, Google Apps to build mobile applications, Swish to make videos, Whisk to help with pricing, and Square to process payments. Online advertising and social media became core elements of the marketing strategy. Azlo, Evernote, G Suite, Quickbooks, and other tools supported the business behind the scenes.
While Cleckley still runs the online bakery from her house, she expanded it and hired an employee to run it, with Cleckley contributing as needed for large catering events and corporate business. She dedicates more of her time these days to Smart Cookie Coaching, which gave Cleckley an outlet for teaching food service and entrepreneurship to others.
Digital technology is an important aspect of both ventures. Neither of them would have been created without free digital tools offered by big technology companies that are now in the sights of critical policymakers in Washington, D.C. Cleckley hopes they don’t ruin a good thing.
“If costs for these tools increase,” she said, “fewer people will be able to use them. Where can they go to learn? This is the only way they can be in business because they don’t have money. Entrepreneurs need these platforms.”
Cleckley said many lawmakers are not sufficiently informed about how digital tools help small businesses thrive and why the big companies that create them are important to America’s economic ecosystem. “These companies understand small businesses,” she said. “That’s why they’re putting out the tools that we need for free. Congress, for the most part, isn’t listening.”