One year ago, Dawn Ferencak of the Wednesday Journal challenged me to write this column.  I had mentioned an interest in writing more regularly to describe the relentless challenges small business owners face.

Turns out that Dawn is the kind of friend who actually listens and holds you accountable to your random musings.  And for that I am very grateful.  Establishing your public voice and brand via social media is difficult.  It takes discipline – and a good friend egging you on.

Small business owners constantly are counseled to expand their social media presence.  Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos and blogs.  “It’s free,” we’re told.  “Blogs establish your voice,” we’re told.  “Customers want to hear from the authentic YOU,” we’re told.  “Your brand success depends on it,” we’re told.

Social media is great – don’t get me wrong.  With the right amount of time and content, it can be the kind of brand-builder heretofore inaccessible to small business.  But you still have to DO it.  The vast majority of small business owners set up their Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts and LinkedIn profile but rarely post.  Time is too precious.  Businesses with decent marketing budgets will pay to have someone else do it for them.

Blogs are especially hard to keep up.  Best practices call for blogging at least twice a month.  Not so easy when you are managing a small business and all of its complexities.

Which brings me back to Dawn.  She tricked me, really.  Urged me to give the blogging thing a try, with the carrot of possibly printing it eventually.  Well, don’t you know she printed the very first one and weekly since then.  Dawn is smart.  She knew that by holding me publicly accountable, I would make it work.  When people talk about friends who “lift you up” instead of bringing you down, they are talking about people like Dawn.

Thanks for reading this past year.  Thanks to Dawn for pushing me and publishing me.  And thanks to all the small business owners in town trying to make a living in a very difficult career.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...