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Op-Ed | Congress should not pass new digital regulations that will hurt small businesses

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After more than a year of COVID cancellations, our wedding and event planning business is almost back on track. It’s been a scary time, and for several months we were unsure if we would survive. But event planning is in our bones. We pushed on and used digital platforms and tools to create fantastic virtual events for our clients. For the first time in a long time, we’re feeling hopeful. That is why we are urging Congress to consider small businesses like ours before passing legislation that would make it harder to access the digital tools that were critical to our survival.

We used to organize all the milestone events for our big extended family. We were good at it, and everyone told us we should do this for a living and get paid! So, we started our own business. We built our company using digital tools and technologies. Aisle Planner and Timeline Genius helped us plan weddings and managed the lead-up to events. QuickBooks kept us organized financially. YouTube allowed us to showcase our best events visually and digital advertisements on Facebook and Instagram put our business right in front of potential clients. Tools like Google My Business made it easy for people to find us. We entered 2020 determined to have our best year ever.

Then, COVID-19 turned the world, and our business, entirely upside down. What should have been a beautiful Spring for event planning became a nightmare. Weddings, graduations, and birthday parties were canceled left and right. It was the first time we didn’t have a June wedding. Overnight we went from being a thriving business to not having a single event on the books.

Digital tools became our lifeline. Zoom kept our team together, and it didn’t take us long to realize that if we could meet on Zoom, then a bride could walk down the aisle on Zoom. We planned virtual weddings, then virtual birthday parties, and even a virtual dance party! We also coordinated virtual corporate events. Digital ads kept running because people needed to know that we were still open. And thank goodness for Wedding Wire reviews that spread the word. The pandemic cost us more than 50 percent of our business, but it would have been 100 percent if we didn’t have these tools at our disposal.

This is why the thought of Congress passing digital regulations that could hurt small businesses is so concerning. The status quo didn’t only work for us; it kept us in business during the most trying time of our lives. Changing the way digital companies handle data changes the way digital ads will work. Less data means higher costs and less effective advertising, which means we lose out on potential customers. And what happens if our Google Business page can no longer show up at the top of someone’s search for wedding planners? This is a massive benefit of using Google that benefits millions of small businesses like ours.

Digital tools helped us build and then save our business. As Congress considers legislation that would undoubtedly raise our costs and impair our ability to use digital tools, they must think about how it all impacts small businesses. Right now, digital works, and as the old saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. And right now, the digital economy isn’t broken for small businesses. Congress should pause and understand that if they aren’t careful, small businesses like ours will be the ones to pay the price.

Josenny Tineo and Michelle Peralta are the owners of Josie and Michelle Events in New York, and are members of the Connected Commerce Council.

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