As the co-founder of Twitter, and founder and CEO of mobile payments processor Square, Jack Dorsey has used his tech know-how to launch successful businesses.
For new small businesses starting out, Dorsey, 37, has some basic advice: communication.
“How often do you go to the merchant across the street and talk about how their business is doing?” Dorsey said.
Dorsey will bring more of his advice to the Apollo Theater next week as part of Square’s nationwide “Let’s Talk” series.
Organizers say the goal of the traveling series, which has already visited Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis, among other cities, is to bring small businesses together to create a climate of collaboration.
“There is an electricity in Harlem especially around merchants who helped to stabilize the neighborhood,” said Dorsey, who added he visited Red Rooster just a few months ago. “We believe it’s our responsibility to not just build services and software but to make sure there is a venue for conversations.”
In the Bay Area, Dorsey says his companies have benefited from being able to run ideas by other companies and to see what has worked for them.
“There is a real culture of mentorship and a great sharing of information,” Dorsey said.
“Most small businesses don’t have the opportunity to get together to share information and work off one another,” said Brown who will sit on the panel along with the owners of Astor Row Cafe, Hue-Man Bookstore and the executive director of Maysles Institute.
One area where she could have used some advice when she launched her store two years ago was marketing, said Brown.
“I did not understand how important the reviews were,” said Brown. “I asked someone how they had heard of me and over and over it was Yelp.”
Erika Dilday, executive director of Maysles Institute, said Harlem businesses need one another.
“The only way to survive and to keep the Harlem we know is to be supportive of one another,” she said.
Maysles often participates in partnerships with other local businesses such as offering discounts at restaurants or cafes with the purchase of tickets for a movie or event.
Dorsey said small businesses help make up the “fabric of the neighborhood” but need to collect the right data to help understand how their business fits into the neighborhood and how to improve it.
“There’s also the importance of having a good sense of how your business is doing. Being comfortable reading sales reports, having a sense of how much you’re selling, what are your busiest days, and what happens when it rains are very important,” added Dorsey.
Brown expects to dispense some wisdom as a panelist but will also keep her ears open.
“I can’t wait to hear what people have to say,” she said.
The Harlem “Let’s Talk” event will take place Tuesday, Dec. 17, starting at 6 p.m. at the Apollo Theater, 253 W 125th Street. Small business owners can RSVP here.