How a Pittsburgh company is helping small businesses create online ‘Main Streets’

It starts with Sewickley.

Sewickley

Sewickley

Jon Dawson/ flickr
MJ Slaby

Small businesses across the country will soon be able to up their game when it comes to online sales and marketing, thanks to a local company.

And Sewickley will serve as the pilot.

Marketing is often a barrier for small business owners who don’t have a lot of expertise in that area, said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. So the center’s network, Main Street America, has a new partnership with Pittsburgh-based SnapRetail.

Main Street America has worked with more than 2,000 communities focused on revitalizing downtowns and commercial districts, per the organization’s website. It’s a paid-membership organization, open to any interested community, which can choose to pursue different membership levels through an application process.

Local members are in Ambridge, Beaver Falls, Castle Shannon, McKees Rocks, Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley and Wilkinsburg.

For businesses in Main Street communities, Snap will provide tools for websites, social media and email newsletters. It’s the platform for businesses to market themselves, but also to promote partnerships within the Main Street community and local events, said Sean McDonald, president and CEO of SnapRetail.

“We’ve embraced the shop local” he said.

McDonald said tools will also help businesses to track trends about customer preferences and to sell products online.

The partnership between Main Street America and Snap is in the early stages, but McDonald said the platform is already in place at several Sewickley stores such as Spoiled Chics and the Center for Young Musicians.

“You have to be so competitive these days. … Online retail is very tough competition,” said Alex Lancianese of Explore Sewickley. She is also the Main Street manager for Sewickley. (Each community in the Main Street network has a manager to help lead programming related to the network.)

An online presence is “absolutely critical” to whether a small business will make it, Frey added. She said small businesses with beautiful store fronts often can afford it because of online sales.

Right now, McDonald and Frey said Sewickley will serve as the pilot before more Main Streets are added to the Snap platform.

Snap will also sponsor and attend the Main Street Now Conference, which is in Pittsburgh May 1 to 3, and offer information to attendees from around the country. Frey said Wednesday that more than 1,500 people are registered to attend the conference, which includes education programs as well as tours in local neighborhoods, including Sewickley.