The COVID-19 era has been especially difficult for medium-sized businesses in the U.S. that have been affected by the subsequent financial crisis, the evolving business scene, lockdowns and other new challenges.
In the past year, a number of Israeli startups targeting the U.S. small business market have found that the technology they developed has changed the fates of businesses struggling to survive the economic downturn. These technologies were not developed specifically to contend with obstacles created by the pandemic but their market presence during this period has changed the course for the better for many small business operators.
One such company is Tailor Brands, which provides small businesses with services that a regular branding company offers, but through an automatic, online interface and at least for now, also free.
The technology is also available to street businesses that had to move online or enhance an existing digital presence, and for those who set up a completely new business during this period.
“We have thousands of customers who used the platform to make a living during the COVID,” said Yahli Saar, CEO and founder of Tailor Brands.
“For example, a single mother in South Carolina who was fired from her job during the COVID period used the platform to turn a hobby she started with her daughter into a pet boarding house that today is the main source of income for the household,” he shared.
“Most small businesses are still dying at the concept stage because the idea just does not materialize. The COVID era has transformed the ability to move from the concept stage to the application stage quickly from something that is nice to something that is necessary,“ Saar added.
Tailor Brands allows people to create logos for free, build business branding, build a social media presence and their own website. The system offers branded products like business cards, pens, shirts, bags. Everything is done in a simple, automatic process that takes only a few minutes.
Saar said the company has almost 30 million registered businesses in the system. Tailor Brands sampled about 7 million of the businesses that were started recently around the outbreak of the coronavirus and during the pandemic.
“From the information analysis, we saw a general increase in the number of small businesses starting as a result of rising unemployment in the past year. These are people who have decided to leverage their skills for business building. We have seen an increase in small jewelry and fashion manufacturers, manufacturers of art items. People were looking for a way to make things by themselves in their homes and turn their skills into a business, to produce a new source of income,” he explained.
The U.S. government's USAGov website has the data to back the trend Saar presented. During 2010, 2.46 million applications were submitted for opening small businesses, after a steady upward trend that lasted about a decade. The number of applications increased in 2019 to 3.47 million, and after the outbreak of the pandemic, leaped to 4.41 million applications for opening small businesses in the U.S. in 2020 alone.
Another company that operates in the field of small business services in the U.S. is Tel-Aviv-based Melio, which provides a platform for transferring digital payments between small businesses in the U.S. The company was established to help small businesses manage incoming and outgoing payments remotely and improve their cash flow. This kind of efficiency is required both in ordinary times and even more so in a time when the world is facing a pandemic which creates new challenges when it comes to tracking one's expenses and income and also running a business remotely due to social distancing requirements.
Ziv Paz, a co-founder of Melio, noted that “what is unique about the technology we offer to small businesses is its suitability for people with no technological or financial background. We saw family businesses in the U.S. that started using our solution and have never incorporated technological tools into their business before. For them, however, COVID disruptions brought them to an end and pushed them into digitization.”
Transferring payments for goods and services between U.S. businesses is still largely done manually and involves inefficient processes, such as using paper invoices and checks, and they produce long payment times. Over 40% of U.S. business transactions are still made through paper checks, which in 2019 reached a financial volume of $25 trillion.
“The founders of Melio decided to set up an accounting company in the U.S. as a means of understanding the world of payments between businesses, feeling the pains of the field, understanding the nuances within the workflow. This helped produce an accurate solution. Most money transfers through our systems are free, and the revenue is, for example, helping some customers advance or defer payments,” Paz said.
“During the COVID era, we also saw changes in the design and branding of small businesses,” adds Yahli Saar of Taylor Brands. “From vivid colors and playful styles of curvy lines and brush strokes to brands created primarily to instill confidence: strong and straight lines in shades of black and gray. These are trends that try to convey safety and stability, important elements in the world we are caught in which every product poses a potential risk.”