Local businesswomen become Google Alaska ambassadors

Photo/Courtesy/Andrea Schulze

Search for Lolihanna Training Co., and the first result is the company’s webpage, complete with phone number. Then come social media sites, stories about the company, business directory listings and even a YouTube video about the business.

Lolihanna is a small Anchorage-based business. Founder Andrea Schulze offers personal training, nutrition education and mental wellness to clients in-state, as well as some Outside.

The company’s web presence is largely due to help from Google’s Get Your Business Online, or GYBO, program, said Lolihanna’s Project Manager Alicia Busick.

“We saw a drastic increase in traffic,” Busick said.

Google launched GYBO in 2012. It is a national program designed to help small businesses increase their web presence. GYBO provided an easy-to-create website that came with a custom domain name and free hosting for a year. In September, the company hosted an event in Anchorage to get things started locally — less than half of Alaska businesses have their own website — and has since provided the tools online for business owners to use at their convenience.

Busick saw an announcement about the GYBO initiative on the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s Facebook page last fall. She talked to Schulze, and got to work using the tools Google provided to build a website for Lolihanna.

Then the duo were selected as Google’s Alaska ambassadors, and went to the Google Get Your Business Online Ambassador Summit in Washington D.C., Feb. 12 to 14. There they received additional help with the company’s website, and participated in other events. Ever since they came back, they’ve been trying to share what they learned with other small business owners.

Now is a great time for small businesses to tap into the internet for growth, Busick said, and look beyond social media to an enhanced web presence that incorporates the growing trend toward mobile use and apps.

“The iron is hot,” she said. “It’s time to strike. There are so many resources right now for small businesses, it’s incredible.”

Busick herself has gone from knowing little about the web to helping other businesses succeed online in just three years, she said. And any Alaskan can do the same. The state has the highest rates of internet use per capita.

“We’re positioned fairly well to take advantage of all the tools for small businesses,” she said.

Busick said every tool provided by GYBO has been usable, starting from the online website help.

“It was very easy,” she said.

Busick has a background in marketing and graphics, but said she thought the Google tools were navigable even for someone without her knowledge.

“For the average Joe, starting a small business, being able to get it up and running in under and hour, that’s incredible.” she said.

In Washington D.C., Busick received additional help on the company’s website.

The participants received one-on-one website help from Google, Intuit and Duda Mobile.

Intuit is the software behind the websites provided by GYBO. Duda is a service that converts regular websites into a mobile-friendly version.

Buisick said Duda Mobile offered a free version of its product to summit participants, and the company’s vice president was there to help people use the program.

“They were incredible,” Busick said.

Lolihanna also benefited from feedback on website content and search engine optimization, she said.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, helps websites get their results to show up when someone searches for certain words.

“You’re showing up where you want to show up,” Busick said.

Paying for that service is very costly, and it requires a certain knowledge of search engines.

Busick said they also learned about Google Plus and Google Places, two ways that businesses can perform better in searches and help connect with customers.

Aside from the technology help, Busick said networking with other business owners was a valuable part of the summit.

The first night of the summit included an event to help people meet their counterparts from all over the country. More than 43 businesses were represented at the summit.

Another unexpected networking opportunity came at the White House.

The ambassadors met with the White House Business Council for a small business leaders discussion Feb. 14. The WHBC’s Executive Director Ari Matusiak participated in that event, as did other members of the council, White House staff and a Small Business Administration representative.

“It has definitely given us a very broad sense of what’s happening in this country,” she said.

Lolihanna’s experience didn’t end when Busick and Schulze left Washington, D.C.

Busick said she brought back a notebook of notes, screen shots and how-tos from the summit.

In April, the duo spoke to the Seward Chamber of Commerce. They’re also hoping to participate in AEDC’s entrepreneur week in July.

Busick said she’d like to see more people in Alaska use the program — she’s seen benefits for other companies, like a tackle repair outfit, that she helped get online — and more collaboration between various partners.

Google still has state-specific sites for GYBO, and Busick and Schulze are the Alaska points of contact, trying to refer other small businesses to the program.

That’s fitting, since Lolihanna’s mission is to help women be their best and benefit all aspects of wellness.

“We just have this incredible message of encouragement,” Busick said.

06/06/2013 - 3:27pm