Main Street Businesses Try TikTok

See how a Chicago bakery is using the social media platform.

Good morning!

Today’s highlights: The PPP money is gone. But SBA loans are on sale. And an economist asks whether businesses that can’t find employees have tried raising wages.

MARKETING

Even Main Street businesses are taking a crack at TikTok: “Wake-n-Bakery, in Lakeview in Chicago, sells food and drinks featuring a form of cannabis known as Delta 8. Owners Brianna Banks andM. Lotfy say the company started posting TikToks in October with the goal of educating people about Delta 8, which is a less potent cousin to Delta 9, or regular cannabis. Wake-n-Bakery's first brush with virality on the platform was when an employee toured the space and showed off its cannabis-infused treats. The video generated thousands of views and lines around the block to the store. Now Banks says monthly in-store sales are up 80 percent from pre-TikTok days.”

  • “She attributes that to the brand's strategy of consistently posting videos—mostly made by employees—which range from funny clips to in-depth explainers.”

  • “The bakery hosts ‘TikTok Tuesdays’ every week inviting influencers to the shop, who get free products as long as they make TikToks or post on Instagram about the store.” READ MORE

Liz Picarazzi and her COO

MANAGEMENT

Liz Reisch Picarazzi writes about the changes the pandemic forced her to make: “The pandemic forced my eyes open to see pre-existing conditions that had long hampered the business. Some had to do with fundamental underlying issues like managing cash flow and the supply chain. Some had to do with my leadership. I knew way before the pandemic that I needed a COO. Founders are often not good at operations. We start businesses to realize ideas that we can’t let go of, which is how I was with trash enclosures.”

  • “Sometimes it feels like the thing I started has turned into an exercise in logistics, warehousing, inventory management, scheduling, trucks, tariffs, taxes, and other important tasks that I’m not good at and dislike doing.” READ MORE

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Four weeks early, the PPP money is gone and applications are no longer being accepted: “Some money — around $8 billion — is still available through a set-aside for community financial institutions, which generally focus on lending to businesses run by women, minorities and other underserved communities. Those lenders will be allowed to process applications until that money runs out, according to the trade group’s alert.”

  • “Some money also remains available for lenders to finish processing pending applications, according to a lender who was on a call with SBA officials on Tuesday.” READ MORE

FINANCE

Small business loan expert Ami Kassar reminds that SBA loans are on sale between now and the end of September: “The government will pay your first three monthly payments, up to $9,000 a month. In addition, all guarantee fees are waived, which generally run at 2.5 percent of the total loan amount. The government has also increased the percentage of the loans that they guarantee to encourage lenders to make riskier loans than they otherwise would.” READ MORE

HUMAN RESOURCES

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The founder of Zoom says he has Zoom fatigue: “Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom, told a virtual audience of The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit Tuesday that he had personally experienced Zoom fatigue. On one day last year, he said he had 19 Zoom meetings in a row. ‘I’m so tired of that,’ Mr. Yuan said, adding that he no longer books back-to-back Zoom calls. ‘I do have meeting fatigue.’ Like many companies, Zoom is planning an eventual return to its offices, Mr. Yuan said. Zoom’s employees will most likely be asked to come into an office two days a week and work from home the rest of the time, he said.” READ MORE

CANNABIS

New York’s weed dealers may have to go corporate or stay underground: “Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the country’s most progressive marijuana legalization bill, making New York the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana. While the law should be a boon for the legions of marijuana sellers, distributors, and growers who have been selling the drug here for decades, it’s instead flooded the industry with sophisticated Wall Street and Silicon Valley investors — making the future in an already-precarious industry even more uncertain.”

  • “[The owner of a delivery business] said he’s now in survival mode, working seven days a week to prepare for what he believes will be the crushing of the underground within a few years.”

  • “He estimated it will cost millions of dollars in licensing and lawyering to navigate the soon-to-be regulated market, and he wants to partner with a big financial backer so he doesn’t get shut out of his own industry.”

  • “‘Even if you’re the smartest guy in the black market and you’ve got quite a bit of cash, which is going to be useless, you’re never going to be able to compete.’” READ MORE

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STARTUPS

New Era ADR says it has a simpler, cheaper way to settle business disputes: While a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig in Chicago, Collin Williams watched a client spend six years, and $1.2 million in legal fees, to resolve a dispute with a partner, only to see that case settle for $30,000. It was a colossal waste of time and money, Williams recalled, and became the impetus of his mission to create a simpler and more streamlined tech-forward solution to resolve business disputes. ... If a company wants to do an arbitration or mediation online today, it requires Zoom meetings, countless emails back and forth to schedule meetings and send confidential documents, and a clunky payment process that requires a wire or a check in the mail.”

  • “With New Era ADR, companies have one platform where they can upload documents, schedule meetings, and present their case before a neutral party—all while receiving a legally binding decision in less than 100 days using a flat-fee pricing model.”

  • “‘Why are we flying litigators in town from New York and San Francisco for one hour meetings in Chicago—and paying for their time on the flight and paying for hotels,’ Lee said. ‘This should all just be done virtually.’” READ MORE

OPPORTUNITIES

The business owners of one small town—Keene, N.H.—supported each other through the worst of the pandemic: “[Luca] Paris gathered local restaurant owners and other state officials on his own Zoom calls, and soon, those restaurant owners were buying their staff lunches from neighboring eateries to help keep each other afloat. Other local entrepreneurs staged similar campaigns that have since raised tens of thousands of dollars for the downtown district over the past year. The fundraising campaigns have served as mini-stimulus checks for the local economy. Last month, Paris spearheaded a crowdfunding effort that raised $30,000, including $10,000 from his nonprofit, Culinary Journeys, to buy gift cards from Keene restaurants.”

  • “He distributed them with a request: Use this card as quickly as possible and spend at least double its balance.”

  • “Giving to others became a virtuous circle, says Ted McGreer, the owner of Ted's Shoe & Sport, Keene's sporting goods and specialty footwear store.”

  • “Luca's Mediterranean Cafe just recorded the best March in its 20-year history: $20,000 in weekly sales.” READ MORE

MANAGEMENT

On Tuesday, Jason Fried apologized to his employees and former employees: “In a new blog post, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried apologized after the ‘policy changes’ he announced last week ultimately led to a third of the company’s workforce opting to leave. ‘Last week was terrible. We started with policy changes that felt simple, reasonable, and principled, and it blew things up culturally in ways we never anticipated,’ Fried wrote. ‘David and I completely own the consequences, and we’re sorry. We have a lot to learn and reflect on, and we will.’”

  • “Fried’s post on Tuesday included an apology, but it didn’t specifically reference any of the tension that preceded it ...”

  • “It also didn’t outline any specific changes Basecamp plans to make.” READ MORE

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THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 60: Did It Have to Get Crazy at Basecamp? This week, Jay Goltz, William Vanderbloemen, and Dana White discuss whether Jason Fried, the embattled co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, has displayed courageous leadership or lost his you-know-what.

If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren