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Interactive kiosks and Unusual partners for small businesses

Traditional travel brochures may soon be a thing of the past; in the world of computers, smartphones and tablets, there's a new interactive visitor kiosk developed in South Carolina and deployed as far away as New York City.

An interactive kiosk

City Corridor is the technology firm that developed the flat-faced kiosks; there's a large touch screen for visitors to see ads, make reservations, print out maps, menus and more. “We said there's got to be a better way, with all the technology we have now,” stated Chad Priest, the company's chief operating officer (Priest created the kiosks with Caleb Yaryan, the chief technology officer).

Forty-two of the kiosks are located in hotels and other Charleston businesses (there's also a bank-card reader, enabling visitors to instantly buy tickets to attractions).
The machines offer quick feedback on how many people click their ads or print coupons (benefiting advertisers). Businesses can quickly alter their ad content. A kiosk camera provides info on the machine's users (whether children, young adults or seniors). Each machine has a bow-tie logo, and have the nickname, “Charles.” So far, there are thirteen placed on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

During the summer of 2013, four kiosks (which can print in nine different languages!) were placed at the New York City visitors center (located at Macy's in Herald Square). There are plans to place more.

According to systems architect (Verizon company, South Carolina; their wireless network is used for the Charleston machines) Rick Swain, these kiosks would have been impossible just a few years ago: “Solutions like this can't exist without powerful wireless backbones".

Unlikely Partners for Small Businesses

The Workshop at Macy's is a training program that teaches women and minority entrepreneurs how to get their products into major retail stores. It's an unlikely pairing of small business and a major corporation-and it's going well, particularly making a difference for small businesses (there's often a struggle for funding; sometimes there's little experience running a business; and about half fail within the first five years). Since its launch in 2010, more than 60 businesses have been through the Workshop (small businesses don't have to work with a major retailer in the future-but for those who do, there's the extra benefit of Macy's access to new products to sell).

Other large companies have stepped in to help, offering mentorship, crucial information and cash (in the form of loans and prizes). In addition to giving back, large companies can enhance their reputations and perhaps even boost profits. Working with small companies also introduces the “big brand” to the customers of the small business. “People are more likely to support a company that they know is giving back to the community,” says Scott Davis, chief growth officer of brand and marketing company Prophet. And working with a small business can also inspire and motivate the big company employees.

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program provides a free business course, spread out over several weeks, for entrepreneurs. So far, the mutual networking has resulted in: 64 percent of 572 small businesses increasing their revenue within six months of graduating; 45 percent have added new jobs, according to a Babson College.Babson business school survey (Babson helped develop the program).

The Tory Burch Foundation partners with Goldman Sachs (the foundation was launched by high-end fashion company Tory Burch in 2009), for the purpose of helping female entrepreneurs get loans and mentors. And it also helps Sachs recruit and train workers.

For more information and details on the abovementioned programs (and a few others), go to:

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses-

Martha Stewart American Made-

Samuel Adams Brewing The American Dream-

The Tory Burch Foundation-

The Workshop At Macy's-

Sources: “Getting In Touch”-Associated Press-The (Sunday) Vindicator, March 2, 2014 and “Market Mentors”-Asociated Press-The (Sunday) Vindicator, May 4, 2014

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