These days, bringing visibility to your Minnesota-based small business isn’t easy. As of 2023, there are over 526,000 small businesses registered in our state, accounting for 99.5% of all businesses here! People love to support local businesses and invest in communities they care about, but there’s often a disconnect when it comes to actually finding these businesses.
This impacts businesses, too. With the sheer number of competing voices—particularly in online search results—promoting your company can often feel like screaming into the void. And for small businesses, many of whom operate without a physical location, it’s especially easy to get lost in the noise when you rely entirely on your online presence to grow your business.
Breaking into New Circles is Tough
We created Heyven because we ran into this problem ourselves.
We started our other business, our branding agency, VZNCY, in 2020 and we had a successful first couple of years, with a fantastic first wave of clients who in turn recommended us to their friends. We soon found ourselves with a steady flow of referrals to bring us from one project to the next.
Because it seemed like we could rely on these referrals, we hadn’t put much time or effort into marketing our business. So when we experienced a particularly slow season at the end of 2022, we discovered that it can be fairly difficult to break into new circles within Minnesota’s relatively insular business community and find new connections and clients.
We’ve always valued community over competition, and we felt that we could be doing more to bridge the gaps in our community. After spending some time exploring our options, we decided a small business directory is just what Minnesota’s small business ecosystem needs to become more inclusive and interconnected.
What is a Business Directory?
An online business directory is a website that lists businesses within niche-based categories and provides search tools like filters to let users narrow down their options and hone in on their best choices. This enables people to discover and connect with companies they otherwise may never have found.
Some commonly known directories are Yelp or Yellow Pages. These are websites we have used for years in order to find businesses.
What is a Directory Listing?
A directory profile refers to the listing—or profile—you create for a directory. Your profile should have all the information visitors need to know to understand what you do, for whom you do it, where you operate, and how to connect with you.
A good directory will also have profile features that allow your brand to shine, such as a prominent place for your logo, an image gallery, or space for a short bio. After all, this will likely be someone’s initial encounter with your business. First impressions matter!
Local Business Visibility = Community Growth
Finding great local businesses through a directory is empowering. Many people would much rather spend locally and help their neighborhoods thrive, especially when the alternative is throwing cash to giant corporations like Amazon, Walmart, or Target, who will hide it in tax havens where it can’t benefit anyone else. That’s a lot of spending power that could instead directly benefit our communities.
Going further, an inclusive business directory helps highlight businesses owned by people from underserved communities. Users who are looking to support the specific communities they love can browse and find their new favorite gay hairstylist, black-owned creative studio, or woman-owned and operated paint crew, and then align their spending power with their values and help them grow.
Why Growth is Vital to Small Businesses
Growth is the key to success for small businesses, determining how they operate, how they shift, and how they can best serve you. Forbes research shows that 99.9% of businesses across the US are small businesses and 8 of 10 of these typically have no employees.
Imagine you’re the sole owner of a boutique clothing shop. Not only are you doing the primary thing you started the business to do—source and sell clothing—you’re also handling administrative tasks, keeping the books, finding time to market yourself, maintaining social media accounts, and a hundred other things. You’re wearing so many hats that it’s tough to manage the business in the short term, let alone plan for its long term growth.
This is the reality that most entrepreneurs face. Without growth—the income that allows for expansion, tools, employees—operating a small business is not very sustainable.
This is part of why shopping local and supporting small businesses makes such a huge difference. Local shoppers hold a lot of spending power, the kind that is transformative for communities.
Establishing Online Presence for Your Business
When you’re just starting your business, most people won’t know about you.
Naturally, appearing near the top of results with search engines like Google is a major factor in building recognition. Most people don’t dig too deeply when they’re looking for something, and often, being on the second or third page of the results means you won’t see much traffic.
The most reliable way to increase your ranking in Google’s search results is to harness the power of search engine optimization (SEO). In essence, this means fine tuning the writing on your website to provide Google with the keywords it wants to see, so when people search for “boutique clothing”, you appear as high in its results as possible.
The issue is, Google is secretive about how its algorithm works, and worse, it changes and updates this algorithm constantly. And the current best practices to harness it change along with it.
Proper SEO implementation can be an expensive and time consuming undertaking, requiring paid subscriptions to keyword services and significant expertise to navigate. This puts SEO mastery out of reach of the typical entrepreneur and firmly into the hands of experts.
Big companies can afford to hire SEO professionals to propel their ranking to the top, but this can be a major investment—one that many small businesses cannot afford.
Finding Affordable SEO Alternatives
The more affordable route to visibility is to establish a broader online presence through various online channels. The wider your virtual footprint, the more easily people will be able to find you.
A business website is a definite boon here. Even if you don’t optimize for SEO, just having your own online info hub helps you build presence. Keep in mind, building a website costs money (if you hire someone) or time and money (if you create it yourself).
Social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok are another great option, and they’re typically free to sign up for. However, these are fairly limited as marketing tools unless you have money to spend or time to grow a proper organic following. It can also be exhausting to stay up to date with each platform's everchanging best practices and new features.
A business directory is awesome for those who are just starting out, as membership should cost much less than building a website or continually paying for social media marketing. Directories bring extra visibility your way and help you establish and broaden your online presence. A directory profile can even serve as a temporary website until your budget allows for one of your own.
We are Stronger Together
We created Heyven as an answer for small businesses looking to boost their local visibility and become more connected with their communities. A central place for all Minnesotans to find and connect with great local businesses and help their neighborhoods thrive.
It can be difficult to stay in the loop with each other as we live our lives and run our businesses. This is where directories shine—the power of connection.
If you’re looking to maximize your visibility, consider joining our community today!