A Tempe tech company wants to ensure small business owners and entrepreneurs are able to thrive in a changing economy.
GoDaddy, which moved its headquarters to Tempe in 2021, launched its Empower by GoDaddy program in 2017 to give small business owners access to training, marketing and website hosting to help them be successful when many companies have pivoted to digital.
To date, the company has assisted over 5,000 entrepreneurs across the globe with a goal of helping 10,000 by the end of 2022.
Stacy Cline, GoDaddy’s Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility, said that the Empower program was created to help those in low-income or majority minority communities, and those without tech savvy.
“Our mission is to empower entrepreneurs and provide opportunities not accessible for a lot of people,” she said. “We wanted to make sure our social impact efforts aligned and that we supported entrepreneurs no matter what they looked like or where they lived.”
The program is ongoing across the world. The majority are in the U.S., but programs exist in the United Kingdom, Germany and one launching soon in Canada. In the Phoenix area, GoDaddy has partnered with the Better Business Bureau and brings in local experts, such as Snell & Willmer and Desert Financial, for specialized advice.
Cline said GoDaddy wants to do its best to give back and better serve the local community through the 12-week program as it continues to grow.
“Small business owners are so important to our local communities,” she said. “They have such a focus around economic development. “We want to support small businesses, so the program looks at owners to see how we can support them with sales and any expertise.”
The majority of businesses that take part in the program have less than five employees. Cline said the company hopes to grow Empower and hone in on what small business owners really need in today’s market.
“The plan is always growth,” she said. “We want to hone in on the quality of the program and make sure not just a one-time interaction. We want to be working with them over weeks or months to ensure they’re getting access to the resources they need. We serve a fewer number of entrepreneurs to work on quality.”
Empower has helped entrepreneurs in the Tempe area as well, including Susan Walker, owner of Walker Bookstore.
Walker applied and took part in the program at the height of the pandemic when it went entirely virtual to help her textbook store succeed when schools were closed to in-person classes and business became tough.
“We're involved with the BBB, so we had come out of going through another business program and I wanted something a little more local, where I would get to know more local business owners and keep things going during COVID. I just felt like the extra motivation would help me keep trucking. I just wanted something to ground me and keep me focused on the more important things we can do.”
Walker and her husband started the company as a side hustle out of their garage to earn some extra cash each month. It eventually turned into her full-time job. She said joining Empower, even though it was virtual, helped her tighten her company’s messaging and better reach her target audience.
Walker Bookstore sells online but also sells directly to local schools. Its contract covers the state of Arizona to sell books and purchase used ones, including several school districts in Tempe.
“It really helped me hone in on some of those messages,” said Walker. “You get a really good handle on how to target the people we most want to do business with the best. We're still kind of building our instant sales department, so it was really good in terms of that. It was also good to reflect. I think the unique thing about the program is there were people who were doing side hustles and there were people who had full-fledged businesses and everything in between. It’s pretty bold because it's hard to grab people at all stages of business and give them something that's meaningful.”
Walker said she hopes to get the bookstore to 50% direct sales by 2025, up from 30%.
In addition to keeping her connected to the local community, where she often hires Arizona State University students seasonally, Walker said the program has been good for business. Walker Bookstore was recently honored by the Tempe Chamber of Commerce as a finalist for Small Business of the Year.
“People didn’t know we were here so it’s been good to increase,” she said.