I am amazed and a little dumbfounded that a group of attorneys general, including Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, launched an investigation attacking technology companies and digital platforms for being too big. I understand the initial concern that gigantic companies can exploit consumers and hurt small businesses, but have legislators and Brnovich considered how important these companies are to small businesses like mine and countless more. I suspect they have not and that has me seriously concerned that politicians are rushing into something that will make it harder for me to run and grow my business.
I started in the shoe and leather business in 1968 and I ran a shoe repair shop in the 1980s. In 1990 I started a made-to-order boot business with a storefront and workshop in Phoenix. I am an artist at heart and I love being an entrepreneur and small business owner.
I am too old to be of the “computer age,” but I definitely understand how computers, the internet, and digital tools have helped my business succeed and grow. When I started out, the only affordable advertising option was local media – radio, television, and print. It was geographically limited and pretty expensive, and we didn’t get much feedback about how successful it was or was not.
Then a few years ago we started focusing on e-commerce and digital advertising, and since then we have greatly expanded our market and reached new audiences. TV and radio advertising is cost-prohibitive compared to digital ads and digital advertising platforms like Google Ads and social media like Facebook and Instagram help us reach potential customers globally! Every week we upload pictures of our workshop and finished boots that are also featured on our website. We have also started to use YouTube to show off our craftsmanship and show customers what goes into making a high-quality leather boot.
Thanks to digital platforms and social media we now have customers from Europe and Japan who found us online. That would never be possible with only local media.
Our digital tools go far beyond advertising. PayPal and Square revolutionized the way we accept payments and made it easier and cheaper to accept credit cards. Google Analytics helps us monitor and understand our website traffic and Google My Business helps us keep a very close eye on our reviews to ensure all our customers are happy customers.
Today our business is stronger than ever. We have taken a local storefront and turned it into a successful business with customers all over the world. And we did it largely thanks to digital tools and technology. We also know that we are not unique. A recent study commissioned by the Connected Commerce Council showed that some 85% of small businesses use digital tools.
This is why I am so worried that elected officials are aggressively trying to change how digital platforms operate. I don’t know anything about the inner workings of these companies, but I know that whatever they are doing has provided me with innovative business tools at amazingly low costs. They help me compete with much bigger boot manufacturers and even bring my art to an international audience. This would have been impossible ten years ago.
Attorney General Brnovich and his colleagues really need to slow down and consider how their proposed action to change the ways these companies operate will impact my business. The last thing small business need is higher costs. The current system is working for small businesses and as the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
David Espinoza is the founder and owner of Espinoza Boot Maker in Phoenix