Small businesses reach out to survive

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - We all know what happens on Wall Street doesn't always translate to “Main Street” where business owners find ways to sell products and pay employees.

Almost half a million of those small businesses disappeared in the past two years but the ones surviving are doing so in part by reaching as many people as possible.

The Doll House and Toy Store in Scottsdale has survived recessions and location changes offering a unique set of collectibles and toys that harkens to a time long gone.

Elissa Gillespie has been coming here since she was 10 years old and still decorates doll houses.

“My mom and I would go and not come out for three hours,” she said as she bought new flooring and looked at doll furniture.

Owner Sari Powazek loves repeat customers, but realizes a store in a popular mall isn't enough and she's worked hard to keep her business on track in a digital world.

“It's impossible to keep up,” Powazek said.

“But you think it's a necessity for a small business?” I asked her. “Absolutely,” she said.  “I would not do it any differently.”

Every company knows there has to be a website, but people also have to be able to find you quickly, so you have to come up high in a search engine. 

Customers of stores like The Doll House often want to interact so Powazek tries to be active on Facebook, twitter and blogs.

Stink weeds in North Central Phoenix is a survivor as well. Kimber Lanning owns the CD and record store and tries to help other local businesses keep up with their digital profile through Local First Arizona.

“In reality, Facebook offers the types of tools that used to cost a fortune,” said Lanning.  Not having a Facebook page in this day and age is like not being listed in the Yellow Pages 20 years ago.”

“My husband doesn't even have an email address,” said Powazek with a laugh.

The Powazeks said social media and search optimization is a full time job. Being a small business owner means adapting to changing times, even if you're selling toys that have been around for decades.

“You have to love a business to be a small business owner,” said Powazek.

The Powazeks hired a 20-something to help them with social media marketing. Getting hits in web searches often comes down to how many lists and organizations to which a business is a part.