Spotlight on Linda Hoang, Alberta entrepreneur
Insights for small businesses on thriving amid COVID-19 from an Alberta business owner and influencer
By ATB Financial 15 August 2020 4 min read
You may know Linda Hoang as @lindork on social media, where she shares all kinds of content with a focus on food, travel, and lifestyle. She’s one of Alberta’s top digital influencers and social media strategists. For the last two years, she’s been running her small consulting business full time.
When COVID-19 hit in March, a lot of her work came to a stop, and since Linda’s work is digital, the way she delivered her business didn’t need to change—but the strategies and content created did.
“I would say running the business this year has felt a lot more uncertain, at least at first—I wasn’t sure how or whether things would pick up,” Linda says, echoing the fears of business owners globally.
Lately, business looks a little different for Alberta’s entrepreneurs, and Linda has been able to use her social following to make changes in her community. She has always supported local businesses, but since the pandemic it’s been something she’s put her whole heart into rallying the community behind.
“I don’t want the pandemic to be the reason why so many amazing businesses shut down,” Linda explains. “So I’ve been trying to raise awareness about different businesses and business owners who could use community support during this time, and it’s sort of grown and grown over the months.”
Coming together to help “goodness grow”
Raising awareness about supporting local businesses has taken all kinds of forms for Linda, including supporting “local business crawls” where she creates itineraries weekly for local businesses so fellow Albertans can explore on their own time. She’s also shared a blog post about a once-struggling new restaurant, which brought overwhelming support to an Albertan entrepreneur, and used her birthday to bring together nearly 200 people to spend $8,000 on 50 Albertan small businesses.
“It’s been actually exciting to work with other businesses on helping them pivot online,” she says. “Although the circumstances are unfortunate, the pandemic did really help highlight how important being online and on social media is, and that’s something I could then help others with.”
Off the Beaten Path is another initiative Linda is spearheading in partnership with #ATBGoodnessGrows. It supports local businesses outside the province’s main urban centres in towns like Leduc, Millet and Lacombe. Through a road trip itinerary, Linda explores five hidden gems along the QE2 highway from Edmonton to Calgary in hopes of influencing fellow Albertans to do the same.
From challenge comes opportunity
Linda has witnessed first hand the devastation that COVID-19 has caused many business owners. She’s thankful that being primarily online before the pandemic allowed her to pivot quickly and support other small businesses. From a blogging standpoint, COVID-19 gave Linda a chance to create content with a new focus.
“Being able to use social media and my blog to show how people can still be safe while exploring outdoors, or how you can still have somewhat of a normal summer by being a tourist in your own home or province, has been a nice—and I think useful and helpful shift for my audience too,” she says.
“I think finding the right tone and balance of content that I shared online wasn’t necessarily a big challenge, but it could have gone very wrong if I hadn’t put careful consideration to it,” explains Linda. “I’ve declined a lot of social media and blog work during the pandemic because it didn’t feel like the right message or an appropriate tone for a pandemic.”
Linda’s alternative approach? It included:
- Honing her focus on local businesses in her content (this really resonated with people, according to Linda).
- Continuing to create posts, write and take photos that were true to her brand.
- Choosing partnerships and clients during COVID-19 that were aligned with her brand and message—not just jumping on opportunities for a paycheque.
- Sharing content (whether for herself, a partnership or a client) that would be helpful for her audience.
- Using her platform to help educate, inform and raise awareness of issues that are important to her.
While Linda applied these concepts to her own business, they could also be useful for other small businesses looking for some digital guidance during the pandemic (and beyond).
"I think being very honest and using your platform—if you have one—for good, and for what you believe is good is so important."
Five lessons learned through COVID-19
- It’s critical to not only have an online presence, but an active online presence.
- Using social media and your website—to remind people you’re still here, what’s different, and how they can help—can be the difference between a good business day and a bad one.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if and when you really need it.
- Challenge yourself to be creative.
- Say “yes” to trying something that you haven’t tried before. It could be a different aspect of your business that didn’t exist before COVID-19, or just a slight tweak of your existing services, or how you market yourself or engage with your community.
Adversity brings out the best in us
While the challenging effects of COVID-19 are countless, Linda has seen a redemption of sorts for Alberta entrepreneurs.
“It’s been heartwarming to see the community come together to support local businesses during such an uncertain time,” Linda says. “If they’re able to, people have been so willing to spread the word about businesses who need help, and have been going out of their way to try and make sure businesses make it through. To see that rallying of support has been really special. I recognize I’m in a very fortunate and privileged position, and I’m trying to use that to help where I can.”
Let’s keep supporting each other, our community and our Alberta business owners. And, in the words of Linda, “if we can have fun, eat good food, buy fun gifts, and see cool things along the way, that’s even better!”
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