Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 8.07.32 AMLast night, 150 small business owners and Verge members met at an old basketball gym straight out of Hoosiers to talk about one stat: 53% of Small Businesses don’t have a website. To address that issue, Verge teamed up with Jayson Manship of InSourceCode to help him launch his Fight For Small initiative. 

Last night wasn’t your typical Verge event. It was a town hall meeting featuring an awesome panel. Jayson was joined by Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media, Brittany Smith from Yelp, Guenter Haines from Angie’s List, and Jacob Schpok of the ISBDC. One-by-one, small business owners stepped up to the mic and listed out their concerns with their online presence. Hunckler put 60 minutes on the clock and the panel went to work answering questions. Here are some key takeaways for businesses of any size:

The Basics Aren’t That Basic For All

As a member of a tech community, we may take for granted the fact that “basic” Internet knowledge may not be basic to everyone. There are many stressors that face small business owners every day that never cross our mind. Many small businesses have less than ten employees, meaning the owner is likely still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and too busy to learn about new technologies. Small business owners also worry about bringing on new employees because of how long it takes for them to become cash flow positive. This means that finding someone to help them tackle the “basics” can be a lot harder than it sounds. Addressing this issue could be complex, but a great solution was put forth by our panel.

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Why not find a college student and use your business as a Summer project? It would require two parts humility, one part effective management, but if you were to take on a Summer intern (or even provide a bonus to a current young employee) to help you build out your web presence, your business would benefit immensely and the young person would be able to bolster their resume with the knowledge that they built the online presence for a business. 

But How Hard Are The Basics To Master?

Surprisingly for many small businesses, the basics aren’t tough. Most high school students have enough baseline knowledge to set up optimized social accounts and a very basic website. Additionally, the other tools that small businesses look for aren’t that far out of reach. 

“Just two reviews from Angie’s List members gets you on Angie’s list for free and most small business owners don’t know that” #fightforsmall

— Verge ® (@VergeIndy) May 13, 2014

Resources like Angie’s List, Yelp, and FourSquare are very accessible for most small businesses, but you have to make the effort to get on these sites and get reviews so you can get noticed. You just have to care about the Internet and the Internet will (eventually) care back.

But Why Should Small Businesses Care?

That’s the real question that skeptical business owners have about the Internet. If I’m putting out a great product, why should I care about the Internet? Our panel took that head on:

Plain and simple: Small businesses have the greatest opportunity to grow by building their online presence. No one is looking for you anywhere besides their web browser anymore, and if you’re not focusing on that audience, you’re losing customers every day.

What to Do After You Master the Basics: Tell Your Story

Our panel had an incredible discussion last night about effective story telling and the impact it has on presenting your small business online.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s vital to start telling a story that people care about. If you can do that, you can master the web.

It’s been my experience that small businesses put out incredible products and teach their employees invaluable lessons, but if they continue to ignore the times, we run the risk of losing that facet of American life forever.

So What Can We Do To Help?

That’s the question of the hour. What can our tech community do to help? In addition to last night, Jayson and InSourceCode will continue to host Fight For Small town halls to help as many small businesses as possible. Verge is going to be partnering with them to promote these events and connect tech-heads with small businesses at every turn.

The IBJ is giving this initiative great coverage and groups like Techpoint will continue to be involved in promoting events like this, but if we want to move the needle, we need to come together as a tech community and figure out ways we can make small businesses more successful.

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This is why I’m proud to welcome Jayson Manship back to the Verge stage at the end of the month for a fireside chat that will blow your small-biz-loving socks off. That’s right! Two events in May? Not enough. Let’s throw our usual pitch night in there on top of it. More details will be released on this event soon, but tickets will go fast, so keep an eye on your email.

What lessons did you learn last night? What advice do you have for small businesses? How can we as a tech community help small businesses grow?