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Rebuilding with a better connection

How wireless technology is helping small businesses thrive in the era of covid-19

Montclair Brewery is one of those places where people go to meet their neighbors. Started in 2018 by Denise Ford Sawadogo and Leopold Sawadogo, a wife and husband team, the New Jersey-based microbrewery quickly become a popular spot in the community. Each night, people would pack in close to the bar to sip bespoke ales and just be together. Then the pandemic hit. Early public health guidelines forced the brewery to close its tasting room, which threatened to push the business to the brink of collapse. But Montclair Brewery adapted—first pivoting to a bottling operation and later, when shelter-in-place restrictions were relaxed, an outdoor beer garden. The business used digital technology to pull off these pivots. Today, Montclair Brewery is taking credit card orders in the new outdoor beer garden with 5G-enabled tablets on the AT&T network. (AT&T has the fastest nationwide 5G network—5G coverage analysis based on carrier’s public statements; see details.)

Stacey Marx
- AT&T Business

Like Montclair Brewery, small businesses around the U.S. are facing unprecedented obstacles, and utilizing digital technology to help overcome them. We interviewed Stacey Marx, AT&T Business president - national business and channels, about this challenging moment for small business. The discussion touched on a range of topics, including how to manage social distancing guidelines and the benefits of wireless technologies for small businesses.

Stacey Marx
- AT&T Business

What are the biggest challenges facing your small business clients during the pandemic?

Stacey Marx: Many small businesses are struggling to survive, let alone thrive. According to one survey of small business owners, 42 percent said they risk business failure before the end of the year. They are navigating how to support their customers while also taking advantage of technology that can support their business in today’s virtual environment.

Many small businesses are struggling to survive, let alone thrive. According to one survey of small business owners, 42 percent said they risk business failure before the end of the year.

- Stacey Marx

How has AT&T technology helped support small businesses during the pandemic?

SM: Connectivity, e-commerce and the know-how to succeed online have never been more important for small businesses. When the pandemic began, we started offering small and medium-sized businesses targeted resources, payment relief, direct donations and other remedies to help them cope. We launched a new smartphone offer, for example, designed to help small businesses make the most out of their connectivity and help keep their businesses up and running—whether they’re in the office, or on the go. We also made available free step-by-step online guides to help small businesses understand how to virtualize their business and use the power of digital to meet customers where they feel most comfortable.

Looking ahead to after the crisis abates, how can AT&T technology help solve everyday challenges for small business?

SM: We’re helping small businesses get through the current pandemic and build new foundations to survive and thrive well past covid-19. With consumer habits moving to more digital and touchless, brand loyalty is out the window. The best news is that the small and nimble can win in this environment. Small businesses can build or re-shape brand affinity and capture new customers. With the right technology, they can meet customers where they feel most comfortable and bring new value outside of a physical store through unique experiences. We’re delivering the solutions and resources to help them thrive in this environment.

With the right technology, small businesses can meet customers where they feel most comfortable and bring new value outside of a physical store through unique experiences.

- Stacey Marx

How can AT&T technology encourage small business innovation?

SM: I’ll give you an example: Treker is a communication platform powered by AT&T that enhances student safety and provides tools for school bus drivers, parents and administrators. We supply the bandwidth, Internet of Things expertise and highly secure connectivity that enables the company to deliver near-real-time data on the location of buses and students. As Treker President Gina McDuffie told us: “Without AT&T connectivity, there would be no Treker. We rely on the strength and reliability of the AT&T network.” We’re also helping a host of startups get off the ground. AT&T Aspire Accelerator is currently hosting its second $1 Million Skills Building Challenge to locate, support and mentor startups working to redefine how students prepare for promising futures. More than 40 startups have participated in the Aspire Accelerator, including 70 percent women-led companies and 51 percent minority-led companies.

How can AT&T technology support deeper connections between small businesses and their customers?

SM: Going virtual can deepen connections between small businesses and their customers through digital connectivity. Websites are becoming the new face of businesses. Small businesses need a place where customers can "come and see" their environment, learn who they are and what their value is. In many cases, websites are replacing the office visit and helping build connections. Thanks to the right technology, business owners can keep both their physical and virtual doors open 24/7 while also creating new experiences for their customers.