TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – The COVID-19 closures that began last spring dramatically affected small businesses, especially in towns like Taos where tourism is a major part of the local economy. Also, many of those small businesses didn’t have active websites or online inventories. In response, Taos Main Street and the LOR Foundation partnered last year to create a solution to assist local businesses called Business Alive.

Charles Whitson of the newly formed Downtown Taos Main Street nonprofit organization said between 40 and 50% of small businesses in the downtown Taos area had little to no e-commerce capability. “After we had assessed the amount of businesses that seemed to not have a website or have a static one, we started formulating a plan to hopefully help them develop to some capacity a way to sell their goods online,” Whitson said.

Elana Lombard is the co-owner of Mudd n Flood, one of the businesses in the first cohort of Business Alive, said they had Zoom meetings with the project managers about what they wanted the website to look like and what they wanted to put on it. “They had us do homework and decide what products to start with. They told us to start with 10 to 20 products, so we could familiarize ourselves with how to do that. Now we’ve decided to put our entire online,” Lombard said.

Lombard, like many other small business owners, always planned to create a website but was daunted by the task. She said through participating in this project, she had someone to help guide them through how to get set up online, how to sell and keep track of online sales and much more.

Whitson said he was encouraged to see how quickly people responses to this initiative. The silver lining of having local businesses offer online services, he said, is the ability to have clients who might not normally have access to their products. “The community-mindedness from everyone was really cool to see. This is a way for them to expand their reach and share their unique, one-of-a-kind business with people not even in Taos,” Whitson said.

Jake Caldwell of the LOR Foundation said they are now sharing what they learned from their experience with everyone. “There’s a lot of talent in these rural communities and sometimes it’s really just a matter of trying to connect the talent to the need. We hope that just by communicating these kinds of projects to the broader public, and by providing some of the tools and resources that can help businesses, that we can have a wider impact,” Caldwell said.

The LOR Foundation website published a digital toolkit to assist other small businesses who need assistance in creating an online presence for their products. They go over topics like photographing inventory, point of sale, choosing the best platform for an online store and more. To view the digital toolkit, visit the LOR website and look under the Creating E-Commerce for Small Business post.