Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Even when a businesswoman has the best-laid plans, she can be derailed by unseen problems and lack of experience.
Thankfully, Google is offering much-needed help for entrepreneurs–and it’s free. The tech giant has created the Google Academy which offers a free 12-week program, Accelerate with Google Academy, that trains entrepreneurs on a variety of important business tech issues such as creating a website landing page, using marketing techniques to attract leads to their site, and maximizing their online presence. So far, more 1,400 businesses have gone through the program.
And it’s pretty extensive, said former participant Tina Harmon. “We were using a lot of Google apps before we started working with Google,” said the founder of the marketing solutions enterprise, The Harmon Group, LLC, who was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Michigan Business Women” by the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2013. “We found the program very crucial. It is just part of our culture today that you have an online presence, no one’s handing out brochures these days, no one’s looking in the phone book for you. You have to have a website, be on social media. The program helps you put all these tools in use.”
Participants are handpicked and get the tools and training they need via live help and private consultations with experts who show them how to use Google AdWords, manage marketing campaigns, and overcome any aversion to the technical aspects of running a business. The latter was a particular need for Harmon.
“I have to admit it was kind of a struggle for me because I like to look people in the eye. I’m old fashioned that way. I like to do business face to face. But once I went through the program, I saw the importance of using online tools, such as Google Docs. It’s such an easy way to share information with others. Now I use Google tools without a second thought. We’re using the Google apps for email, docs, storing information in the clouds. Now I cannot even imagine doing business any other way because we do business all over the globe so it’s awesome I can can take my office anywhere I go.”
Google has specifically been reaching out to get minority-owned businesses to join its Accelerate with Google Academy, shared Google’s Head of Diversity Markets Chris Genteel who developed the Academy. “I joined Google’s Sales team in Michigan eight years ago. I quickly saw that Google represented technology’s ability to remove barriers and create opportunities for people. But I also came to realize through my work locally in Detroit that many of the barriers to success in our society–related to race and gender and other economically marginalized groups–were now manifesting at digital speed. We know this phenomenon commonly as the digital divide,” said Genteel. “Our programs and advocacy help ensure that Google reaches those who have the most to benefit from tech, with a strong focus on underrepresented minorities, women and LGBT individuals.”
The company’s diversity efforts are focused on three main issues: integrating inclusion across its products and business operations, which means working with leaders around Google to help solve business inclusion challenges; helping diverse, small businesses grow on the web; and growing Google’s business with diverse suppliers.
“Google is making this commitment to these communities in part because leveling the playing field is the right thing to do, and Googlers are passionate about coming to work to solve the world’s biggest challenges – challenges like sexism, and racism,” Genteel said. “But inclusion is also a critical business imperative of our time. When we miss out on the talent we need to tackle the business problems we face – whether that’s hiring the right people, getting the right customer insights or working with the right business partners – our products can’t succeed.”
Genteel said Google diversity outreach has resulted in great partnerships for the company. “Tina Harmon is a perfect example of this. We first met Tina at the Michigan Minority Procurement Fair. As newcomers to supplier diversity she said ‘I can do a much better job representing the Google brand than your other supplier is doing.’ Given how important our brand is, we were listening. And after Tina demonstrated her company’s commitment and competency, they were selected to drive all promotional collateral for Google’s ‘Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map’ program, which has been distributed to thousands of municipal governments and their partner organizations. Tina is helping Google connect to people all over the U.S. But she’s not someone we would have found without a commitment to finding more talented women-owned businesses.”
Google’s push to help small business seems to be a win-win for all, especially in the area of minority supplier partnerships, and Harmon agreed. “It has really driven our business. Our partnership with Google has been amazing. It has increased staff by 10 percent, this trickles down to the community and helps even more people.”