The last few weeks, the MaxFilings team has been busy reviewing all the wonderful entries we received for our second $1,000 scholarship essay contest. We received so many great essay responses that it was difficult to choose a winner.
For the 2018 scholarship essay contest, we asked college students to answer the following question in 500-750 words:
“Should all small businesses have websites?”
We’re proud to announce that Jessica Perez is the winner of our 2018 scholarship essay contest! Jessica is a senior at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. She is studying to get her Bachelor of Arts in English.
Read her entry below…
Sunset Supply’s Surprise
I’m a tech-forward person. I set my GPS for the simplest trips around the corner. I’m one of the go-to problem solvers when a computer doesn’t work. If an online textbook is offered in place of a paper one, I always go digital. Despite all of that, I was largely against the idea that every small business should have a website – until a little store in my country town changed my mind.
The arguments against mandatory website usage are valid and understandable. Websites can be a hassle: domains are expensive, updating inventory and information is time-consuming, and failure to keep the site relevant is more damning than being off the map entirely. Not every businessperson is a techy, and contracting out web designers or social media managers can be tough to squeeze into an already-tight budget. Websites that are outdated, inefficient or phony can deter customers, rather than bring them in.
Besides, I used to believe that not all businesses required websites. One such example: Sunset Supply, a hardware store in my hometown – a town that has this store, a gas station, a liquor store, and not much else. We’re talking a more-cows-than-people kind of place. I didn’t expect anything to come up. Sunset Supply is the place in town where old farmers hang out on lazy afternoons. Nothing about their brand suggests that they are the kind of business with a website or a Twitter handle. It’s the place to get a roll of duct tape and catch up with the rest of the townsfolk.
Last spring, my dad asked me to replace the air filter in the furnace. I’d been replacing the filter for years, but had not yet bought a fresh one on my own. I didn’t even know where to find one. I reflexively turned to Google. Completely lost, the first thing I searched was the name “Sunset Supply.” And to my amazement, a link for the store just two miles down the road popped up. The website was clean, organized, and up-to-date. I felt a tiny twinge of shame; I’d never expected this little country store to be so on top of its digital presence, and yet it was far more organized than any puny website or blog I’d designed in my day. And when I asked the store clerk, she gave a simple explanation for the site’s existence. Without it, Sunset Supply would be left to rot on a little country road. By giving the store an online presence, the owners were giving the store a fighting chance at survival in the coming years, when their regular clientele move on and they have to entice screen-shoppers like me.
So yes, all business, big and small, should have a website. And just like all other marketing tools, a website should be optimized to the business’s needs and personality. Sunset Supply’s website doesn’t need to be edgy or trendy – or even exhaustive when listing inventory. It just needs to make a presence for the often-forgotten store. Small businesses with physical locations should never spend more time developing a digital brand than a memorable in-store experience. It’s up to the owner or partners to determine how much the website will do when compared to their brick-and-mortar locations. But shunning an online presence isn’t the answer, either. People like me – the Googlers – will completely ignore the unknown if we can’t research it online first. Small businesses in the smartphone era won’t stand much of a chance without a digital footprint.
And, for the record, Sunset Supply did sell air filters – but I had to go in-person to ask. I may like my technology, but I can talk to people, too. Even in a world where every business needs a website, the power of face-to-face interactions should never be forgotten.
Well said, Jessica, and congrats on your scholarship! And thanks to the other applicants for your insightful answers.
Do you want to win a $1,000 scholarship? Be sure to check back in by visiting our Scholarship page regularly to find out when our next essay contest is open for submissions.