Hazard, KY. – Melinda Handshoe is like many small-town entrepreneurs, competing for customers in a world that is becoming more and more digital.
Instead of giving up, Handshoe, the owner of Dion’s Clothing and Gifts, jumped in and is now leveraging e-commerce to attract customers from across the globe.
Dion’s is a staple in Hazard and Perry County. Handshoe has operated the store for 17 years. Like many brick and mortar businesses, she has experienced the highs and lows of the retail industry. One day, Colby Fugate, a business and innovation champion with SOAR Innovation, walked into her store and share the services he provides. He explained SOAR Innovation’s focus on the digital economy, and that brought the fast-paced world of digital into perspective.
“A lot of times, business owners value the digital economy, but the resources and support are not available to walk them through such a process,” said Fugate. “With Melinda, we began to talk about ways we could grow her business and expand her market. We didn’t jump right into this, but we instead looked at a gradual transition that wasn’t overwhelming.”
Handshoe has leveraged social media to market her storefront. It has nearly 3,000 followers.
“Like many small businesses, we know that being on social media works, and I have always wanted to dabble with a website, but it was intimidating,” Handshoe explained. “Trying to build and maintain a website while trying to operate the store and run this business is tough. Colby [Fugate] walked with me throughout the entire process, and he is still working with me. It truly made me feel as if I had a champion working on my behalf.”
As the new year approached, Handshoe launched Dion’s new website complete with an online store.
“We are still working and learning thanks to the help of Colby and the team at SOAR,” Handshoe continued. “We are learning more about specific ways to leverage our website to reach potential customers through targeted ads and other digital marketing platforms.”
SOAR Innovation is a partnership between SOAR and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation office. Through this initiative, SOAR has Business and Innovation Champions located throughout the region assisting existing small businesses and startups that wish to expand their reach through leveraging technology to reach new customers.
One of the seven goals outlined in SOAR’s Blueprint for the Future of Appalachia is Small Business in the Digital Economy. To see proof of SOAR’s Blueprint in action, visit www.thereisafuture.org.
To learn more about SOAR Innovation, visit www.soarinnovation.tech.