SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Local businesses have been scrambling to stay afloat during the shutdowns and restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
"There isn't a tutorial out there -- like 'this is how you transition your business in a pandemic.'"
This emergency has pushed many business owners into new fields, forcing them to become experts in online marketing at an unbelievable pace.
One exmaple is Anna Pecharich, who owns a clothing and gift boutique on the Central Coast.
Like so many other small business owners, she was forced to close her doors to customers in 2020, with no instruction manual on how to keep her business alive.
"We're writing the book as were going," Pecharich said.
However, it was quickly evident that the way to survive is to go online.
"When COVID first hit, they needed a way to reach out to their customers, and the best way to do that was through Facebook, Instagram, and those types of resources," said Paula Fryer, Program Director for SLO Partners.
But for Anna, this was uncharted territory.
"We opened in 2017, and it's me. It's not like I can call the IT department and have them start working on the website," Pecharich said.
She jumped right in though, learning to market her business through social media.
Now selling more than she ever had in person thanks to her new livestreams.
"From then it just grew. People started telling people, they were shopping from home," Pecharich said. "I have completely transitioned my business model."
The Economic Vitality Corporation (EVC) helps companies thrive on the Central Coast. But this year, it's about helping them change directions.
"The ones that are most successful really had digital marketing skills that outshine the others, and we need to find a way to make this accessible to all," said Loreli Cappel, Senior Project Director at EVC.
EVC and SLO Partners are launching a bootcamp to help people learn the skills they need to build a stronger social media presence.
"All of those skills that are really necessary: that good communication, that good engagement with their customers, and hopefully really make a difference for their business," Cappel said.
And though it was baptism by fire for Anna, shifting to a digital model has no doubt been a success.
"It's been amazing. I'm so grateful, oh my gosh, it's been amazing," Pecharich said.