How to start a business in the digital age: building on a budget

Starting my nonprofit in spring 2015 made me realize how much behind-the-scenes and behind-the-screens work goes into creating a business/organization. The Internet has been my biggest and most successful platform for growing my business, promoting the brand and encouraging engagement. Here are five must-know details about starting your business in the age of technology.

1. USE A WEBSITE BUILDER

Hiring a web designer can be expensive and frustrating if they do not share your vision. DIY your site at a low or no cost by using a website-builder like SquareSpace or Yola. Look into the various options, evaluating cost and what you need in a website. Buy your domain off GoDaddy and think about whether you want a .com or .org address. Your site should include key elements like a captivating home page, an informational about page and a helpful contact page. Update it regularly with fresh content to keep users coming back. I have created two sites using Squarespace: ashleyyong.com and giveabox.org. Though they require a monthly subscription for the service, I feel like the accessibility and design options best fit my abilities and wants. Check out this video on starting a SquareSpace website:

2. MANAGE SOCIAL MEDIA RELIGIOUSLY

Social media is free, popular and powerful. It should be given the utmost attention when getting your company’s name and message out there. Get on as many social media sites as you can, but be wary of what works and what doesn’t. If your Snapchat or Tumblr haven’t been gaining traction after multiple different attempts, it might be a good idea to drop them and divert your attention to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Start a hashtag, respond often to comments and post content every day. Track metrics on specifics posts, tweets, etc. to see what is working, when it is working and who it’s working for. Use HootSuite, a free service, to schedule posts and to keep all your different sites together and organized.

3. USE MAILCHIMP

Mailchimp is a free service that helps create and manage a mailing list. You can track who is subscribed, how many people unsubscribed and other helpful details. They have easy-to-use templates to create professional emails. Consider sending out a monthly newsletter to keep subscribers up-to-date on what’s happening with your company/organization.

4. ALWAYS USE CALL-TO-ACTIONS

In whatever is going out to consumers, be it emails, posts or photos, there should almost always be a call-to-action. Think about why you posted what you did. To drive engagement to the website? Say, “Check out our website for more information.” To get users to engage with your photo? Say, “Comment your favorite volunteering memory.” To get your audience to register for an event? Say, “Sign up today for a discounted rate.” Every post should have a purpose, and the overarching purpose should always be to improve your business.


Starting and maintaining businesses has become easier with the advent of technology to spread our messages far and wide. The Internet is an integral tool in growing your business and should have a significant amount of time and energy devoted to it.