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Economy / Business

Small Businesses Waiting, Hopeful the RNC Will Bring Customers

styles by jessica.JPG
Bobbie O'Brien
Jessica Wilson attended the Host Committee's Facebook seminar to improve her use of social media to find clients and tap into the RNC attendees.

Republican National Convention organizers have felt the sting of criticism that previous conventions didn’t benefit most small businesses when the big political party came to town.

The Tampa Bay Host Committee has been working to change that perception holding seminars and setting up an online Small Business Directory to help small businesses get their piece of the pie.

Sporting an impeccable coiffure and fashionable earrings, hair stylist Jessica Wilson signed up for the Host Committee’s workshop on how to build your customer base using Facebook.

Wilson created her Facebook Page, Styles by Jessica, in March. She’s posted photos of hair coloring and stylish cuts as well as links to her monthly newsletter. Yet, Wilson knows she needs to do more to attract customers. She’s optimistic that she’ll reap benefits from the convention.

“With the RNC coming I would love to be a part of it as a small business owner and kind of try to tap that market,” Wilson said. “Everybody needs a hair stylist. Everybody is going to want something done, makeup, hair, whatever it is. Everybody wants to look good.  I figure I will fit right in.”

Wilson is also listed in the Host Committee’s online small business directory, so is her aunt, a makeup artist. But, that listing has not yet produced any leads.

It may seem as if time is running out to benefit from the RNC coming to town, But, Karn Clark, owner of Bay Area Destination Management, expects a rush of last minute customers. Her company handles logistics from transportation to entertainment for groups visiting the bay area..

“I would have loved to have heard two years ago, but I’m a realist,” Clark said after attending the Facebook seminar. “Even our regular clients business is very short term. It has been since the economy took the downturn. So, we’re doing bookings two weeks out. So, that doesn’t surprise me. We’ve just had to learn to work faster.”

Clark is also listed in the online directory which has yet to generate any business leads for her.

“We’ve gotten nibbles on other things, but we’ve done some other activities to try and bring in business because you can’t sit and wait,” Clark said.

That’s the message you’ll hear repeated by Host Committee chief operating officer Matt Becker.

“We’ve been trying to tell them to be aggressive and go out and get business and to go out and market themselves,” Becker said adding that the Facebook seminar gives the business owners “another tool in their toolbox to do that.”