LA is Paying Designers, Artists to Get Small Business Online

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

LA is Paying Designers, Artists to Get Small Business Online
Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

As the pandemic devastates small businesses and creative freelancers, Los Angeles is hiring designers and artists in a novel bid to help the local economy recover.

Mayor Eric Garcetti last week launched a new program of online tools for small businesses, along with a plan to hire creative professionals to match with owners impacted by the pandemic. Graphic designers, artists and others will be given a $500 city grant in exchange for services to brick-and-mortar businesses that have been harmed by the stay-at-home orders.


"COVID-19 has changed everything — the way we communicate, work, socialize, and shop — and our brick-and-mortar stores need to rapidly rethink how they reach their customers, market their goods, sell their products, and thrive when so much business is happening online," Garcetti said in a statement.

The program, called LA Optimized, will funnel over $1.5 million in funds to about 1,000 businesses across the city over the next year, with an emphasis on those serving low-income communities, the mayor's office said. It's a partnership between the city and the ArtCenter College of Design and verynice, an L.A.-based design strategy firm that allots half of its work to nonprofits.

This year, revenue generated by small businesses in California fell by 29.3%. According to a September report, Los Angeles holds the highest number of permanent closures in the nation since March 1.

Small business leaders of color have been disproportionately hurt by the pandemic, but those that remain open attribute their reliance to having embraced technology, according to a report produced by Google and the Connected Commerce Council.

The precipitous drop in foot traffic on Black Friday, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days, exposed just how the deep economic impact has been for traditional retail as the economy has been pushed further online.

California is pushing its own effort to encourage small businesses to get online. In September, the state launched a series of workshops with Google to help companies grow their digital presence.

Garcetti's initiative launched Nov. 25 will focus on getting companies online with digital marketing tips and help building or improving websites to boost ecommerce sales.

A creative advisory board including verynice will make matches between graphic designers and small business owners. Roberto Martinez, the mayor's recently appointed entrepreneur-in-residence, will oversee the program.

"It's next-level pro bono," said verynice founder Matthew Manos. "It could be an initiative that ignites the creative community as well as small businesses."

He said creatives can apply for the project later this month.

Small business owners can apply with just their company name, address and business tax registration certificate number. They must operate in L.A. city, generate less than $5 million and have started operations before March 2020.

Businesses that qualify for the program will be selected beginning January 2021.

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Snap Mandates Employees Work From the Office Four Days a Week

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at nat@dot.la.
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Photo by rblfmr/ Shutterstock

Snap is the latest major tech company to bring the hammer down on remote work: CEO Evan Spiegel told employees this week that they will be expected to work from the office 80% of the time starting in February.

Per the announcement, the Santa Monica-based company’s full-time workers will be required to work from the office four or more days per week, though off-site client meetings would count towards their in-office time. This policy, which Spiegel dubbed “default together,” applies to employees in all 30 of the company's global offices, and the company is working on an exceptions process for those that wish to continue working remotely. Snap’s abrupt change follows other major tech firms, including Apple, which began its hybrid policy requiring employees to be in the office at least three days per week in September, and Twitter, which axed remote work completely after Elon Musk’s takeover (though he did temporarily close offices amid a slew of resignations in mid-November).

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nat@dot.la
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