Posts tagged with "small business"

analysis illustration by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

The growth guide to Instagram 

Is your business growth starting to slow down a bit and you’re struggling to get it up again? Have you ever thought about using Instagram as a part of your marketing strategy in order to grow your business?

Launched in 2010, Instagram has been around for a while, but is well known for being one of the most popular social media platforms to date. Instagram has a user base of over 1 billion people, many growth services such as Growthoid which help to organically gain followers, and more businesses and brands on top of that. Instagram has become very popular among the business community and a great way for brands to promote themselves and grow. Just having a profile isn’t enough though, and neither is just posting advertisements. There is a lot more that goes into social media marketing, and making use of a platform to grow isn’t easy but it is well worth the work. 

If you are new to Instagram then you might not know how to use the platform effectively. Here is a brief guide on how to grow on Instagram.

Have a good profile 

When it comes to social media, people tend to think that all that is important is the content you post, and all they want to do is advertise their brand or product as much as possible. While, yes, it is essentially about advertising, there is so much more that goes into the behind the scenes work in order to have a well-run and successful account, like starting off with a good profile.

It is so important to have a good and easily recognisable profile so that followers can quickly discover who you are and what’s your brand is about. Included in your profile should be a good username that is short, catchy, and at least the same or similar to your brands actual name. There should also be a profile picture that is your brands logo or something to do with your brand, and a good, well worded bio that include your location and website link. 

Post at the right time 

Contrary to some people’s beliefs, there is actually a wright and wrong time to post on Instagram. The general rule of thumb is that it is best to post in the evening when people are done with work and school for the day and have dome down time to spend on their phones. While this is a good baseline to follow, it changes from business to business, depending on their target audience, as well as their location and time zone. 

A great way to discover what the best time is for you to be posting, is by looking at analytics. By looking at different posts you can see which one did better at different times of the day, and which allowed you to get more followers. From there you can plan out a posting schedule to post at the most optimal time for your followers to see your content. 

Use reels 

Although a relatively new feature to the app, reels are quickly becoming one of the most used parts. Similar to TikTok, reels allow you to post short form videos that can be filmed, edited, and posted all from the same platform. It is a fantastic way to show off parts of your brand like the behind the scenes or meeting the teams, without tainting your actual grid or timeline with things that don’t match it. 

Partner with brands and influencers 

Although it may seem counterintuitive to be working with the competition or with other brands, it is actually very helpful and a great way to be introduced to a much larger audience. Partnering with other brands is a great way to collaborate and allows for you to support them while they return the favour and support you. You could even collaborate with brands that have products which may accompany yours. For example, if you are a company that sells sportswear, you may want to collaborate with a brand that sells protein powder. 

You could also enlist the help of influencer to grow your account. Influencer have massive followings that will listen to their every word. If you can get an influencer to speak well of your brand, you will be set for a while.

No More Hate illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Atlanta Shooting

By: Carly Cohen × Heather Skovlund

Early this week, a tragedy had occurred in Atlanta, Georgia. A total of eight victims were killed at the Georgia spa. Six of the eight victims were Asian, and when the suspect got caught, he claimed that “his actions were not racially motivated.” It was stated that it was too soon in the investigation to claim this shooting as a hate crime; however, the shootings were “aimed at a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.” The suspect claimed that apparently “sex addition” drove him to commit these murders.

There were multiple incidents: the first occurred at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in a mall off Highway ninety-two, about thirty miles north of Atlanta. When the police got the call, five people were shot, and two were dead while three were rushed to the hospital. An hour later, after this tragedy, two other shootings happened right across the street- one being on Piedmont, the other at the Gold Spa and Aromatherapy.

There were seven women and one man; most of them were Asian. The victims have been identified as Delainia Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng.

Yaun and her husband, Mario Gonalez, were off work getting a couples massage at Young’s Asian Massage when the tragedy started. Her husband safely made it out of the salon, but he and his wife were in separate rooms when the shooting was started. They had a family together; a thirteen-year-old son and an infant daughter. It is sad to say that this woman was a victim in this shooting that not one person deserved -separating families, taking parents, taking siblings. It is a terrible, terrible thing that no one deserved. John Beck, Yaun’s manager, voiced to BuzzFeed News that “her heart was so big.” She would feed homeless people and offer them clothes and a place to shower. Hearing a person who is so kind and so pure as Yaun makes you ask the question, “why do bad things happen to good people.” It doesn’t make sense and is not fair.

Xiaojie Tan was the owner of Young’s Asian Massage as was another victim of the attack. She was known for being an extremely hardworking small-business owner and had such a big heart filled with love and kindness. Her client, Greg Hynson, stated that when he came for an appointment on his birthday a year ago, she had a birthday cake waiting for him. Another victim, Paul Andre Micheals, was a U.S Army infantry veteran married for more than two decades. He was a “dedicated, hardworking, loving man,” his brother stated.

These killings brought a “wave of outrage and attention to violence against Asian-American people.” As soon as social media was notified of the attacks and assumed to be focused on Asian’s, you could see all over the media celebrities, influencers, and people left and right posting regarding standing up for the lost lives and spreading awareness to this hate crime and all hate crimes in general. The media has been outraged and will continue to stand together.

Mini Tocalini illustration for hair salon and Barbershop marketing for 360 MAGAZINE

SNAP AND SHARE

Black Salon and Barbershop Owners as Social Influencers

Wil Shelton, CEO and Founder of Wil Power Integrated Marketing 

All marketers understand the importance of sharing images and messages with their online communities. But what if your online community doesn’t reflect enough diversity for African Americans to engage? African American salon and barbershop marketing can breathe life into a campaign and enable brands to piggyback on the connection Black barbers and hairstylists already have within their communities—including those that are online. 

These cultural catalysts are considered to be taste-makers within the African American community because they are always the first to know about new trends, products, and sports or news information that matters to their customers. When they share an in-store promotion, their customers take it as a recommendation from a trusted source. And that’s when the word-of-mouth marketing really starts to take effect.

African American customers who happen to be in the shops are thrilled to be a part of this seemingly spontaneous, infused in-store experience, which turns another day at the salon into a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the next big craze that’s about to blow up. In-store marketing means that not only do these customers get to be in the know before everyone else, they score some dope merch to prove it. 

You can be sure they leave that salon or barbershop ready to get everyone they know excited, too. But in-store marketing activations don’t end there. Because African-American-owned salons and barbershops tend to have huge online followings on social media sites such as Instagram.

In fact, almost all Black salon and barbershop owners are savvy social media influencers and often have hundreds of thousands of social media followers. You can see why smart brands are competing for their recommendation. Even better, most African American barbers and salon owners are more sophisticated in non-traditional marketing than a lot of senior media planners and buyers. But this hasn’t happened by chance! They are entrepreneurs who have had to teach themselves how to promote their stores and being seen as on-trend is part of the allure.

Shop owners have a history of doing more with less. In short, out of a lack of resources, urban barbershop owners have had to be nimble and develop the skills to become their own Black marketing creatives, media planners, and strategists.  

Barbers and stylists are engagement experts, and what they have accomplished can’t be devalued, because they have the power to monetize the culture and narratives in their shops and elevate the marketing strategies of the brands with which they choose to work. Even after COVID-19 hit, they have found ways to pivot and thrive. 

African American men and women gather weekly to spend money on self-improvement and discuss what’s new. This culture predisposes them to the idea of receiving brand messaging from the chair. Even as social media has expanded the realm of influencers, barbers and hairstylists have maintained and, in most cases, built on their role as taste-makers to become the micro-influencer stars. 

They’ve done it by leveraging their strong social-media engagement skills to develop an ever-widening circle of influence. This phenomenon is nothing new, but, interestingly, COVID-19 has put salon and barbershop owners in the spotlight, as people realize the critical role they play in their lives. This makes it more relevant than ever to leverage their influence to reach African American consumers.

About the Author 

Wil Shelton is the CEO & Founder of Wil Power Integrated Marketing, a full-service agency offering traditional and digital marketing services to reach multicultural audiences in the beauty and grooming industries.  

Illustration of models by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

Advice Every Fashion Student Should Read

Are you about to enter the challenging but very exciting world of fashion school? Are you prepared for what’s ahead as you embark on your design studies? Do you know what to expect during the first year? Don’t worry if not, as we’re about to share some important advice that every fashion student should know. 

Fashion School Is Expensive

The cost of going to college is not cheap. You need to pay fees and you need to have enough money to live comfortably. You don’t want to be scraping by – you want to enjoy your college years and make lifelong memories with the new people in your life. Looking into ways that will give you a bit more breathing room financially is always a good move. 

Is it possible to take on a part time job at the weekends so you have extra cash? Can you refinance your existing student loan with a private lender so you’re left with one monthly repayment? By doing so, you can choose your payment and term and enjoy more flexibility with your monthly cash flow. Have you talked to your parents about how they could help you out? There are lots of options available to make the burden of paying for fashion school a lot more bearable. 

Always Think About Your Portfolio

It’s a good idea to treat every project you complete like it will be part of your final portfolio. Not only will you do your absolute best to produce the best work you can but you’ll also be extra focused and motivated when it comes to meeting deadlines. Follow this simple advice and you’ll leave college with top grades and a huge selection of work samples. 

Stay Up to Date with Trends

Fashion school and keeping on top of new trends go hand in hand. If you really want to excel, don’t be the fashion designer who waits for new trends to arrive before jumping on the bandwagon. Why not be the person who stays ahead of trends – the person who knows what’s coming before everyone else does? The secret to staying ahead is keeping informed. Watch – or attend – fashion week if possible. Follow big stylists on social media. Check your local high-end boutiques for new collections. Spend your spare time studying celebrity stylists. These are all ways to keep your finger on the pulse of new and upcoming trends. 

Learn How to Sew

Do you know how to sew? If not, it’s time to learn. Great fashion designers learn how to sew early on in their careers so they can understand the different fabrics and get used to working with a wide range of threads and materials. To be successful, it’s important to understand the construction of clothing and what’s involved in making a beautiful garment. 

Be Tech-Savvy

Fashion school has not escaped the advancements of technology. It’s now essential for students to understand the different fashion design software platforms that are changing the way designers work. What do you need to focus on in terms of technology? You need to get familiar with 3D printing so you can create 3D models of your designs before production starts. You also need to gain expertise in body scanning, smart tailoring and the world of augmented reality. 

Taste Network illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program

American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Announce $1+ Million Grant Program for “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” in the U.S.

American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced “Backing Historic Small Restaurants,” a more than $1 million investment to preserve historic restaurants in the U.S. as they continue to navigate the pandemic and plan for recovery. This is the latest in a series of initiatives announced this month by American Express to support the restaurant community nationwide.

Through the grant program, small historic restaurant owners will have the opportunity to improve, upgrade, and preserve their physical spaces and online businesses, as well as mitigate existing operating costs. For example, restaurants can rehabilitate the exteriors of historic buildings and facades, expand outdoor dining, upgrade their takeout and online ordering systems, or establish a stronger online presence. Updates like these are critical for future success in a post-pandemic world.

“For generations, our nation’s oldest and most historic small restaurants have been safe spaces for customers to share meals, ideas, and their culture. They are at the heart of our neighborhoods, serve our communities, and help advance cultural and social change for those who live there,” said Colleen Taylor, President of Merchant Services – U.S., American Express. “Many have stood the test of time, but the pandemic has tested them in ways they could have never imagined. The ‘Backing Historic Small Restaurants’ program will help preserve these spaces not only for their legacy, but also for their earned place in our nation’s future.”

As part of the grant program, American Express’s partners are also joining in to support these historic small restaurants:

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  • AT&T Business and Dell Technologies will each offer up to $5K to each awarded historic small restaurant for a collective total of up to $250K to spend on products and services for digital upgrades.
  • Resy, a hospitality technology platform that is part of the American Express family, will offer complimentary use of ResyOS – its restaurant management software – for one year to each of the historic small restaurants selected to help streamline costs and boost restaurant operations.
  • Main Street America will provide specialized technical assistance on small business marketing strategy for grantees, delivered through a series of three training webinars and Q&A “ask the expert” opportunities with UrbanMain Marketing Specialists.
  • The National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will also offer access to virtual educational tools and training to support the 25-awarded restaurants, as well as up to 75 nominees.

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“American entrepreneurship is a defining aspect of our nation’s heritage, and historic commercial landmarks are vital to community identity and economics,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This initiative acknowledges that legacy restaurants are not only welcoming spaces where people break bread, but also gathering places where history is made in meaningful ways, small and large, over and over again. Though hard hit by the pandemic, preserving these treasures helps restore our connectedness and commercial life. We are honored to partner with American Express to preserve these legacies and tell the powerful stories of restaurants that have nourished our souls, helped shape our past, and must be a part of our future.”

The National Trust will work with American Express to identify historic small restaurants that need support and will award 25 grants of $40,000, totaling $1 million funded by American Express and administered by the National Trust. Historic small restaurants can be suggested at SavingPlaces.org/HistoricRestaurants for consideration. Final grantees will be selected by the National Trust, with input from American Express and a chef advisory committee assembled by Resy including chefs Deborah VanTrece, Edouardo Jordan, and Kwame Onwuachi.

The grantees will be announced in May to coincide with National Preservation Month.

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Grant Selection Criteria for Eligible U.S. Small Historic Restaurants:

  • Have experienced significant financial hardship due to the impacts of the pandemic.
  • Have contributed to the neighborhood’s history and/or the identity of a particular neighborhood or community for at least 25 years.
  • Be a small/independently owned restaurant located in a historic building and/or historic neighborhood.
  • Preference will be given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color and women, disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
  • Priority will be given to small restaurants who have not already received significant COVID-19-related aid.

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Building on American Express and Resy’s Support for Restaurants

American Express has made several commitments to support restaurants since the beginning of the pandemic, including a national campaign launched earlier this month with Resy to “Order In, Help Out.” According to the American Express Independent Restaurant Insight Study, 89% of small, independent restaurant owners say they depend on takeout orders to stay afloat. The study also found that the simple act of ordering takeout can generate, on average, more than $700 million in daily sales for the industry[1]. “Order In, Help Out” is an extension of American Express’ Shop Small® effort, a global movement to spotlight and support small businesses, especially during the hardships experienced due to COVID-19.

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ABOUT AMERICAN EXPRESS
American Express is a globally integrated payments company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at on their website and connect with American Express on FacebookInstagram, LinkedInTwitter, and Youtube.  Key links to products, services and corporate responsibility information: charge and credit cardsbusiness credit cardstravel servicesgift cardsprepaid cardsmerchant services,

Valentine Image by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Your Boutique

By Joseph Heller

Love is in the air, gals… Valentine’s Day is almost here! If you’re new to owning an online boutique and this is the first Valentine’s Day you’ll be celebrating as a small business owner, the approach of February 14th might have you mainly thinking about what you’ll get for your significant other and (maybe even more so) what he or she will get for you. Or maybe you typically spend Valentine’s Day with your best single gal pals, eating chocolate and exchanging gifts.

But Valentine’s Day isn’t all about love, romance, and cheesy cards. No matter how big or small your eCommerce business is, it can be a day that drives sales like no other – especially if you sell clothing, jewelry, or other gifts. In fact, it rivals only Christmas in consumer spending. If you play your cards right, the days surrounding Valentine’s Day could make up one of your best sales weeks of all time.

Of course, competing with major retailers isn’t easy, least of all on Valentine’s Day. Stores all over the country are spending thousands of dollars on Valentine’s marketing, trying to get people to buy their gifts from them. Sure, you could have an incredible selection of Valentine’s gifts and accessories, available for great prices – but if nobody knows about your shop, it won’t do you any good in the end.

If you’re going to drive both new and existing customers to your shop for their Valentine’s shopping, you’ve got to get creative about your Valentine’s Day marketing. Read on to learn 15 affordable Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for your boutique – and why you really should care to do something special for this holiday in the first place.

Valentine’s Day and eCommerce

The numbers are clear – Americans spend a whole lot of dough on Valentine’s Day. The average American celebrating Valentine’s Day spent $196.31 on Valentine’s Day in 2020, adding up to a total of $27.4 billion spent on the holiday in 2020. Trends show that number only heading upwards – 2020 spending was up 32% from 2019.

Of course, that’s just the big picture – and not all of that money is being spent in boutiques like yours. Here are a few other stats you should be aware of that paint the picture of consumer spending on Valentine’s Day, based on 2020 numbers:

  • 32% buy Valentine’s Day gifts from discount stores.
  • Men spend nearly three times as much as women on Valentine’s Day.
  • $5.8B was spent on Valentine’s Day jewelry
  • $4.3B was spent on a Valentine’s Day night out
  • $2.4B was spent on Valentine’s Day chocolate
  • $2.3B was spent on flowers
  • $2B was spent on Valentine’s Day gift cards
  • $1.3B was spent on Valentine’s Day greeting cards
  • 45% of adults didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day
  • 15% of Americans buy themselves a present on Valentine’s Day
  • Americans spend an average of $12.21 on Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets

With all of that shopping and spending going on during the Valentine’s Day season, you’ll want to make sure your business ends up with even a small sliver of that massive pie. Running holiday-themed campaigns and upping your marketing efforts leading up to Valentine’s Day will help you keep your boutique fresh in people’s minds and increase the chances that they go straight to you once it’s time to shop for their Valentine’s Day gifts.

15 Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Don’t have a huge marketing budget? No problem – with time, effort, and the right direction, you can still get your boutique’s awesome Valentine’s Day gifts and products in front of the right people. Here are 15 Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for small businesses that you can implement for little or no money.

  1. Send a themed email marketing campaign

Instead of generic email newsletters or sale messages, send a themed Valentine’s Day email that’s all about love, friendship, and gift-giving. Drive your audience to your website with gift suggestions and fun Valentine’s-themed wordplay. (You know… “love is in the air,” “we will always love you,” “gifts with heart,” etc!) For more tips on how to use email marketing to grow your boutique, click here.

  1. Host a contest

Embrace the holiday and host a fun couples contest or giveaway on your boutique’s social media page. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Have participants recreate a photo, do a challenge, coordinate an outfit together using a piece from your shop – whatever sounds like a good time. Then, have your audience vote for their favorite entrant on Valentine’s Day. (No need to exclude single people from this one – you could welcome entries from couples, BFFs, family members, etc.)

  1. Run “couples” deals

How do you make a BOGO deal more festive? Call it a couples deal, or a two for one deal! Choose a selection of Valentine’s Day items that you’ll put on sale, whether it’s chocolates, earrings, or pink scrunchies. Encourage them to gift the extra item to their significant other, give one to their BFF for Galentine’s Day, or just keep it for themselves as a token of your love for them!

  1. Partner with another small business

Community over competition, right ladies? Partner with a local business and share the love. It could be another online boutique or a local business that doesn’t directly compete with yours but has a similar clientele, like a florist or a nail salon. Offer a combined Valentine’s Day gift package of your products/services and theirs. This is an especially great idea if you have a strong local presence (or if you’re interested in making it stronger!)

  1. Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Don’t sleep on Galentine’s Day! Coined by Leslie Knope from the TV show Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day is a day reserved for celebrating female friendships. It takes place the day before Valentine’s Day, February 13th. To celebrate, bundle a few of your most popular items offer curated gift packages that’d be perfect to gift to a best friend. You could also offer a discount when they multiple of the same item to gift to their friends.

  1. Have a V-Day themed photoshoot

Create some fun Valentine’s Day photos to post on your social media accounts leading up to the big day. You could take photos of couples wearing your clothing, flat lays of all of the red and pink items you carry, or outfit inspo photos against a red or a pink backdrop.

  1. Create a Valentine’s Day gift guide

You and I both know how hard it can be to shop for people – especially your significant other. Make the whole V-day shopping experience a little less stressful by putting together a list of gift ideas and sharing it on your company blog.

No need to have every single item come from just your shop – in fact, it might be more helpful and comprehensive if you scour other local or small boutiques as well and feature their products in your guide. (It’s a great way to open the door to new networking relationships, too!) If you’re feeling up to it, you could create multiple gift guides with different people in mind – for her, for him, for mom, for Galentine’s Day, for your pet, etc.

  1. Send a card

Everyone loves getting mail! Send your past and present customers a real-life Valentine via snail mail. No need to be salesy – the point of this is to show your customers how much you appreciate them and that you’re even thinking about them on the day dedicated to love. Include a coupon to be used in-store or a unique promo code to thank them for showing you and your store love throughout the years.

  1. Share the love

Turn your social media into even more of a community. Invite your audience to share their love stories with you, whether through DMs or by using a certain hashtag in their posts. You can make this as sappy or spicy as you want to – feel free to mix things up a bit by also asking people to send you their worst or funniest dating stories as well! Once you’ve compiled submissions, feature your favorites in your stories. It’ll keep the rest of your audience engaged and help participants feel even more involved in your brand.

  1. Show the love locally

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the love. What better way to do that than by giving back to the people who need it most? Celebrate Valentine’s Day by hosting a service project, donating products from your store to a local organization, or pledging to donate a certain percentage of your profits in the weeks surrounding Valentine’s Day.

Make sure to advertise this throughout your social channels and your website so your customers know how much good their purchases are doing. Not only will you be able to make a real difference in your community, but you’ll also be able to involve your customers in your charity work.

  1. Highlight date night outfits

People don’t just spend money on gifts during the Valentine’s Day season. They also spend money on themselves, buying clothing, lingerie, date night jewelry, and more. Put together a few fabulous Valentine’s Day outfits using products from your boutique and share a few outfit inspo photos on social media. Be sure to group those products together on your website so your customers can easily purchase everything they need to recreate the outfit.

  1. Don’t alienate single people

For people who aren’t currently in a relationship, Valentine’s Day feels a whole lot more like Singles Awareness Day. Why not go out of your way to show them a little love, too? Don’t leave single people out of all the Valentine’s Day fun – consider running some sort of promo just for them. Run a sale on self-care items that make treat yo’ self gifts, like bath bombs, jade rollers, and (of course) chocolate. You could do this in conjunction with your regular Valentine’s Day promotions or the week before.

  1. Be clear about shipping deadlines

Some people plan ahead of every holiday and finish their gift-shopping weeks in advance – but most people tend to be last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers. Of course, placing a last-minute order from your online boutique on February 13th probably isn’t going to work out for them. Add a banner to your site reminding shoppers of the Valentine’s Day delivery deadline. Be clear and realistic about shipping cutoffs to receive items by Valentine’s Day. Encourage people to buy early, especially with COVID-related shipping delays making package deliveries even more unreliable than usual.

  1. Make a Valentine’s Day video

When it comes to commanding your audience’s attention, video is one of the very most effective marketing tools out there. Rather than just snapping a few photos of your new Valentine’s Day products, create a video showcasing your favorite Valentine’s Day outfits or gift ideas. You could create a short-form vertical video using IG reels or TikTok, or share a longer informative video on YouTube, Facebook, or IGTV.

  1. Host a Giveaway

Spread the love with an exciting giveaway. Partner with other small businesses in your community or your niche to give something away. It could be a romantic couple’s getaway with flowers, a hotel stay, and a new outfit, a date-night-in package with a dress, a romantic candle, chocolates, and a voucher for fancy takeout, or an epic Valentine’s Day shopping spree. Just make sure it’s somewhat Valentine’s Day related, whether with what you’re giving away, how you enter, or even just with the images and language you use to introduce it.

While implementing these Valentine’s Day marketing ideas might take some serious thought and strategizing, with a little effort they can pay off in a big way.

Now that you have a few great ideas on how you can encourage your customers to shop with you this Valentine’s Day, make sure you’ll have enough Valentine’s Day gifts and outfit ideas in stock ahead of time. Click here for 15 wholesale boutique items you’ll want to stock up on for Valentine’s Day.

Meet the Man Behind Bronx Night Market

By Hannah DiPilato

360 Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down with Marco Shalma, founder of Round Seven Media and MASC Hospitality Group. He is responsible for beginning a food and culture festival in New York called The Bronx Night Market. In this interview, he talks about everything from advice for young entrepreneurs to his favorite food spots in New York. 

How did you begin Round Seven Media and why did you decide to start this?

I started in 2013, which was after my education at NYU for undergrad and pursuing a master’s degree in film and tv. Marketing was my passion, and I wanted to run a campaign in a different way. I wanted to use the concept of getting people into the mix of the story and I wanted to get that into a narrative for clients in marketing. In 2013, I sold my shares in restaurant groups and I wanted to begin marketing for myself. I went around and started looking for clients in restaurant and hospitality for about 20 years, which I had experience in. With the explosion of Instagram and technology, it was the perfect time to explore marketing opportunities.

When the company started, the first thing was to go find professional people with a school of thought from film and writing. Our business is known for being a launch campaign for ideas, projects, etc. and we will build an online presence for our clients by finding the key demographic. We are focused on the launch period so our work doesn’t really go further than the six month period.

You also founded MASC Hospitality Group, what made you start another business as well?

MASC Hospitality is one of those situations that happened backward, meaning we first took on the Bronx Night Market project in 2017, which then branched out to many other events that were affiliated with the Bronx Night Market. At one point, we needed to incorporate all of these events, so we decided to create MASC Hospitality Group. If you think about it, MASC Hospitality is a company that basically creates different events while Round Seven Media is the one promoting these events. Sometime around 2018, I started taking fewer clients for Round Seven Media and started adding more of my own companies to Round Seven Media. 

What is your favorite event that MASC Hospitality Group is responsible for?

My favorite event hands down is Bronx Night Market. The Bronx Night Market is my baby, it’s a proud moment for me because it came from a vision of bringing something to the Bronx community, my community, that is a prideful event and a reason to be proud of the borrow, without needing to commute to Manhattan or Queens to experience a festival that celebrates culture, cuisine and commerce. 

We always say culture, cuisine and commerce because culture encompasses the diversity of the city with so many different flavors, cuisine because this is the grand unifier, everyone can enjoy a meal together no matter what skin tone or nationality and commerce is the idea of creating space for young entrepreneurs and small local businesses to present what they do to a large number of people and promote their business to help them move into the next stage of their success. This encompasses everything we are about, supporting small businesses, young entrepreneurship and of course, good, good food. 

Have you encountered any problems while being a business owner for these two organizations?

When you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you always encounter problems. It’s always a matter of hiring the right people, navigating through resources, financing and funding, but mostly it’s identifying and understanding the demographic. I think for me, as a serial entrepreneur, a good idea is a good idea, but you need to identify your key demographic. You need to identify what you do and who it’s for. Then, you work for months or years fine-tuning to make everything connect and basically build a community around your brand.

For example, Round Seven Media is a brand that understands the power of our way of doing business. We are known as one of the top agencies in New York to run launch campaigns for brands because we are dedicated to doing that. With something like The Bronx Night Market, it’s about identifying Bronx-based foodies and people that want to explore offerings and now they have the opportunity to do that in a place where they feel safe, secure and happy. The event is really designed for the community instead of something that could be done anywhere else. 

What do you look for in employees that you hire for your company? 

We hire on a regular basis, we continuously hire for different projects on behalf of companies. When we finish a launch campaign at Round Seven Media, we like to hire people to replace us, younger people, hungry people that can do social media for those brands. When we look at hiring, the most important thing for us at the moment is consistency and the ability to have a follow-up and a follow-through. I think those are the three very, very important elements because in today’s field of business, having consistency and bringing your A-game every time is something that is critical to the success of any business. I’ve unfortunately had to work with people that can bring 120% one day and 30% the next day. This also has a lot to do with company culture and the idea that you need to create an environment that allows people to be consistent.

Another big part is the ability to follow up and follow through. I can’t even tell you how many times you will be doing things where you need to follow up with clients and partners and sometimes it even takes up to 20 emails. Each and every opportunity for you to accomplish something or to create something if you don’t follow through, you have failed. We are also looking for employees that are super savvy with communications and social media because this is becoming a crucial part of any brand. The ability to understand how media works and how to maximize these services is important to our brand. 

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs like you once were?

If I had to give one piece of advice to young entrepreneurs, it would be to not bite off more than you can chew: focus, focus, focus. I keep seeing a lot of young entrepreneurs that I work with trying to do too much. They try to put on six or seven different hats and be the CEO of the universe at the same time. I always say, focus on the one thing, take your time, become the best in your field and then explore from there. From what I’ve seen, the ability to focus and distill your message and brand into the simplest form and show it to other people such as the investors and partners, showing your dedication to a single idea is the most valuable.

When I used to work on movies, right after grad school, one of the exercises I had that influenced me completely was an exercise of writing a logline for a feature film. You have a script of like 90 pages that you need to turn in to a 25-word logline that will explain exactly what that movie is. It’s almost an impossible mission, but once you start on this, you understand how important the focus is. I now tell people you need to understand your business so well that nothing will get in the way. That’s how you get investors and money. 

I know you’re passionate about food, what are some restaurants you would recommend to our readers?

It’s hard to talk about restaurants right now when the restaurant industry is suffering so much. Every day we see another one of my favorite restaurants closing down and the industry is struggling especially when it seems like the industry won’t open soon. I’ll tell you about food in general, as a foodie the most important thing for me is not chasing trends, but a restaurant that has a focused menu, where they know what they’re doing and they’re focused on creating the best experience with a sense of consistency. I know I probably sound like everything is driven like that, but honestly, it’s so important.

Before covid I used to go to a restaurant once a month in West Harlem that used to make the most amazing eggplant pasta, there was also a place I used to go with the most amazing salmon dish and I used to go to another place with the most amazing pad thai. That’s the best thing about living in New York, you get exposed to so much food and you’ll try a lot of trends, but at the end of the day, when you hit something that you know is going to be just as good every time you get it, it becomes the place you go for that dish.

The older I get I realize that’s the most important thing because I want to go back to the restaurant five years later and get the same food and experience. I’m hoping we’ll come out of this soon and be able to go and enjoy restaurants again. Even if you don’t like restaurants and you’re a great cook, you miss sitting down with your friends in a restaurant, eating some food, enjoying a bottle of wine and sharing a good laugh. It’s not about the food, it’s about the experience. 

Where do you see yourself going next in your career? 

At the moment we are trying to get back to normal life especially with Bronx Night Market and other events that we have. I’m working very hard to define what we can do in public spaces to help restaurants and other brick and mortar restaurants come back to life.

At the moment, I’m really dedicating a lot of my time to working with city and state agencies to create programming that will allow brick and mortar businesses to have more visibility as well as helping small businesses that began at home during the pandemic. I like to call these businesses “homentrepreneurs” and they will need a place for their businesses outside to get more traction in the community once the pandemic is over.

I am taking my experience within marketing and media, my ability to push forth different agendas and my ability to plan different activities to bring these skills to neighborhoods around New York and support these businesses and give a place for new entrepreneurs to grow outside of their homes. This is something I have been very excited about for a few months. 

After Covid is over, are there any events you would hope for the MASC Hospitality Group to execute?

Help New Yorkers get back to normal as soon as possible. Possibly that will be creating open-air markets and events relating to many different niches, and just to let New Yorkers come to celebrate returning to normalcy. After covid, trying to figure out with different partners how to help businesses survive the next few months and thrive as soon as we get out of this crisis. This has been a focus for us to do. We have seen way too many friends of ours close shop and disappear. 

Be sure to keep up with Marco Shalma and the Bronx Night Market on Instagram. 

photo credit foodcre8tive
Photo credit to r.ace.me
2021 Illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

5 New Year’s Resolutions To Make Your Business Culture A Winner

New Year’s resolutions are not only for individuals but businesses too. Company goals leaders set for the year ahead are usually measured in data tied to categories like revenue production and expense reduction. 

After a difficult 2020 due to COVID-19, many enterprises’ bottom-line numbers will take on extra importance in 2021. And business culture will be just as crucial. Any resolutions that company leaders make are an effective way to measure their work environment and help their teams meet performance metrics, says Mark McClain, CEO and co-founder of SailPoint and the ForbesBooks author of Joy and Success at Work: Building Organizations that Don’t Suck (the Life Out of People).  

“Meeting individual, team, and company goals begin with employees and managers working well together in a vibrant environment,” McClain says. “And given the changes and challenges of these times, culture and how leaders pay attention to it have never been more important. 

“The bottom line falls into place when everyone is on the same page. But even if leaders have established a strong culture, it bears constant vigilance to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction, especially now when a volatile world can threaten to throw even the most solid companies off course.”  

McClain offers these business culture resolutions for the New Year that leaders could consider:

  • Focus on shared values. McClain thinks it’s misleading to frequently state that a “family atmosphere” exists in a company. “The bigger a company gets or the more it grows in capability and value, the less it’s going to feel like a family,” he says. “Creative friction and disagreement on processes and concepts are inevitable. Smart companies leverage broader, shared values as common ground on which workers can connect. I’ve found one of the best places for doing that is through service to the community beyond company walls. If your culture encourages people to work together for some greater good, they’ll continue to appreciate each other as humans and fellow workers.” 
  • Avoid prima donnas. ”Talented people are essential for a successful business,” McClain says, “but don’t fall in love with a gifted person if they are constantly letting you know how special they are. Watching them work can be breathtaking, but not when they’re the ones sucking the air out of the room.”
  • Double down on integrity. “Large legacy companies are often loaded with people who are just taking up space and collecting a paycheck,” McClain says. “It’s a significant issue, and it goes hand-in-hand with integrity. Effective workers know the difference between busywork and producing value. Everybody in the organization must be clear on what success looks like. The role of management is to be clear on objectives and then let people run.”
  • Don’t stop innovating. McClain says many companies stagnate in this area and should learn how to expand their innovations while encouraging the cultivation of new ideas. “Innovation is an amalgam of product marketing and product management skills, of listening to the market, and of engineering people who can take a problem and figure out how to solve it,” he says. “But innovation should apply in every direction – in how a company contracts, how they sell, how they market.”
  • Be the first to own mistakes. “Anyone who has been involved in conflict directly knows there’s always the sense that both parties have some responsibility,” McClain says. “The sooner you own yours, the more likely the other person will own theirs – and the project can move forward.”

“New Year’s resolutions are often easily discarded because of a person’s lack of commitment,” McClain says. “For business leaders and their workforce, they reflect company core values and can create or improve a culture that everyone will appreciate and aspire to uphold and deepen.”

About Mark McClain

Mark McClain, ForbesBooks author of Joy and Success at Work: Building Organizations that Don’t Suck (the Life Out of People), is CEO of SailPoint, a leader in the enterprise identity management market. McClain has led the company from its beginnings in 2005, when it started as a three-person team, to today, where SailPoint has grown to more than 1,200 employees who serve customers in 35 countries.

360 with Integrity

To kickoff the holiday season, 360 Magazine launched its very own collection of bottles, stemware, and glasses in collaboration with Integrity Bottles. The bottles are sand-carved by hand with the 360 logo, painted, and etched with our trademark in either deep etch (no color), silver, or gold. The collection features seven products.

At 360 Magazine, drinks are taken seriously. The magazine’s Spirits section pays homage to celebrity and libation culture. There, 360 celebrates new drinks, like the JAJA-peño Margarita and D’USSE’s exclusive cocktail, beers, like the Coconut Coffee Stout, and wine-tasting events, like those which take place at Benovia Winery. Thus, 360 knows the value of nice glassware.

Two of the seven products are decanters, fit to hold and present your scotch, vodka, tequila, gin, or rum. The first product shown on the 360 x Integrity Bottles’ webpage is the 360 Magazine Refillable Capital Decanter. This is 750 ML and retails for $69.99. The second, which is the 360 Magazine Refillable Diamond Decanter, is also 750 ML and retails for the same price as its sister product.

Another option in this collection is the 360 Magazine Refillable Liberty Bottle. Like the previous two decanters, this one is 750 ML. It retails for $49.99.

There are four glassware options for buyers. For fervent wine-lovers, this collection includes a stemless wine glass. The wine glass is priced from $19.99. Particularly for those who prefer to drink whiskey, the 360 Magazine Whiskey Rocks Glass is ready and waiting. It is 10 ounces and retails for $19.99. Beer drinkers have two options as well. The collection offers a 16 ounce beer/pint glass that retails for $19.99 for the first option and a gibraltar beer mug, which retails for $29.99.

As the holiday season approaches, a gift from the collection would surely not disappoint.

Integrity Bottles is a small business that started amongst friends. The shop then transitioned to Etsy and then to its own online site. Now, Integrity Bottles has sold more than 3,200 bottles, and earned 265 5-star reviews. They offer customizable glassware, water bottles, accessories, and free domestic shipping for orders over $50. The company is run by military veterans and former law enforcement.

Use the code “360MAG20” for 20% of your first purchase of glassware from the 360 Magazine collection. Also, the code “GIVEBACK” will save you 5% on a separate order, not limited to the 360 Magazine collection.

Computer Scams illustration done by Mina Tocalini of 360 MAGAZINE.

5 Tips for Safe Online Holiday Shopping

By Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz, faculty chair for cybersecurity programs at University of Phoenix

Black Friday might look a little different this holiday season as companies opt to close their doors to shoppers and instead offer virtual options to help stop the spread of coronavirus. While doing so may help prevent illness, it puts consumers at greater risk for another threat ― cybercrime.

This time of year has always been the busiest for online shopping, which has grown exponentially during the past decade. And that was before this year’s coronavirus outbreak caused e-commerce sales to rocket further.1 It all adds up to malicious online criminals having many more opportunities to steal valuable personal information.

Online shopping, although convenient, can be problematic if appropriate security measures aren’t implemented. Identity theft, credit card fraud and malware are among the many safety threats consumers face.

It’s important to take steps to protect your personal information while shopping online this holiday season — and throughout the year. These safety measures can help protect your identity and prevent credit card theft.

  1. Ensure the company is PCI compliant

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is directed by credit card companies to protect consumers. It mandates that a variety of standards be upheld to ensure secure credit card transactions. All organizations that accept credit cards must uphold the required standard.

If an organization is not PCI compliant, personally identifiable information is potentially at risk, either through a third-party seller or through the consumer’s computer or device because the end-point security necessary to shield the transaction is absent or inadequate.

If an error appears when you go to a business’s website indicating their PCI certificate is not secure or is expired, you should not conduct a transaction there. If you do, your personal information is at risk.

  1. Look for the lock

It is important that companies ensure the data you provide when making a purchase is encrypted. To determine whether an organization is using encryption, look for the lock symbol in the browser. This symbol indicates the website uses SSL, a data-transfer security standard that encrypts your data and ensures the server in use is authentic and secure.

Companies can go one step further with tokenization, which means they do not store, manage, maintain or transmit any credit card numbers in their completion anywhere. To determine a company’s security, look for this information published on their website. It should show what they are doing to secure their customers’ information from vulnerabilities related to personal identifiable data privacy.

  1. Firewall application software and active

Consider installing a firewall software application on your computer. If you already have the software, make sure it is turned on. While firewalls are generally used to prevent malicious cyberattacks coming from the outside, you should look for software that can protect your data in both directions — both incoming and outgoing data — to make sure the private information you provide when you make a purchase is secure.

  1. Antivirus or next-generation AI behavior-based antivirus

Antivirus software will help alert you if your network is victim of a malware attack. There are now more sophisticated next-generation apps that use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn about your consumer habits to better identify fraud. Consider installing AI behavior-based antivirus software before you start your holiday shopping online for an added layer of protection.

  1. Research the business

If you are purchasing from an online store that is new to you, be sure to do your due diligence before clicking “buy now.” Check for complaints made to the Better Business Bureau. Look at online reviews, checking specifically to see if there are challenges concerning refunds or processing cards. Visa and Mastercard have publicly available registries listing service providers that comply with rules and industry security standards.

Once you complete your transaction, it’s possible you will have no idea whether your online purchase has put your sensitive data at risk. It could be years before you know you’ve been a victim of cybercriminals. With the rise in online purchases and the biggest shopping season of the year nearing, it is a good time to do as much as you can to protect yourself.

About the Author

Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz is lead area faculty chair for cybersecurity programs at University of Phoenix Las Vegas Campus and director of cybersecurity at Stations Casinos in Las Vegas.