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Why selling online can make all the difference for small businesses in the pandemic era

April 2, 2021, 11:30 AM UTC

It’s no secret that the COVID pandemic hasn’t been kind to small businesses. Now we’re starting to learn how bad it’s been. A survey from the Federal Reserve shows that 30% of small businesses in the U.S. won’t survive 2021 without additional government assistance.

What else will make a difference for small businesses? Going digital.

Adding an online presence has made all the difference for Doughp, a company that makes egg-free edible raw cookie dough. All the joy, none of the fear of salmonella. And yes, you can also bake the dough if hot cookies are your thing.

Founder and CEO Kelsey Moreira started San Francisco–based Doughp from a food cart in 2017. She even went on Shark Tank to raise money for more brick-and-mortar locations. But it was her pivot to digital just before the pandemic took hold that not only kept the business afloat but also pushed it to new heights. In November 2019, the company was selling 30 boxes of dough per month via its website. By April 2020, that number had skyrocketed to 3,000 boxes per week.

Doughp is now 100% online.

Moreira joins Michal Lev-Ram and Brian O’Keefe, the hosts of Fortune Brainstorm, a podcast about how technology is changing our lives, to discuss the shift to digital during the COVID pandemic.

Also on the show is Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto, who has been looking at the effects of the pandemic on small businesses.

“An Internet presence right now is not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have,” Pardue says.

Another guest is Mary Kay Bowman, Visa’s head of global seller product and solutions.

“Digital payments have accelerated, and it’s a reflection of the changes in how customers are shopping,” Bowman says. Other trends Visa is seeing include contactless purchase and online buying with in-person pickup. Basically, “face-to-face for the last mile of the transaction,” she says.

Rounding out the episode is April Underwood, CEO of Nearby, an online storefront that handles sales and fulfillment for small businesses and helps consumers shop local, even digitally.

“The goal over time is for us to find micro-economies of scale,” Underwood says, “so that we can do things like local delivery and shipping. And we can do it at a scale that actually brings down the costs for all of the merchants that participate. That means that they get to keep more money in their pockets.”