Author: Aisha Taylor, Co-Founder of Google’s Digital Coaches Program and Community Engagement Manager, Grow with Google

At Google, we believe providing access for communities that face barriers to technology contributes to leveling the playing field for businesses — building better products for everyone and driving economic impact. We created the Digital Coaches program as a way to address this problem for Black and Latinx communities. Google Digital Coaches reflect the communities they represent. When we created this  program, data indicated that approximately 65 percent of small business owners felt online marketing and advertising were too complicated, or they didn’t know how to use these tools — but businesses with a strong online presence grow at faster rates. Digital Coaches provides digital skills training and tools to help these businesses grow and thrive online. This is part of our company-wide Grow with Google initiative to create economic opportunity for all. 

With that in mind, here are stories featuring two Digital Coaches who are impacting small businesses in their communities.

JinJa Birkenbeuel, founder of The Honest Field Guide Podcast and chief executive officer of Birk Creative, had already spent years building a business network in Chicago when Google asked her to research Google’s relationship with Black and Hispanic/Latinx business communities. An expert on the intersection of inclusion and business strategy insights, she joined the Google Digital Coaches program in 2017 as a Digital Coach to expand the reach of small businesses, and to scale her own company nationally. JinJa has provided training and coaching for thousands of local businesses.

JinJa’s first opportunity as a Digital Coach was with business owner Linal Harris, founder and president of Insights 4 Life Coaching. Their conversations centered on the value of the platforms Linal had already built, and how he could use Google Analytics and Google Ads to expand his reach. Many small business owners don’t know the extent of their success, and how much farther they can go — working with coaches helps them put the pieces together.

JinJa also worked with Raquel Crayton, the founder and CEO of Roq Innovation, a product-solution company for everyday obstacles. After a personal health crisis required Raquel to put her business on hold, she realized that technology had changed and reached out to JinJa to build her social media presence. Through on-on-one coaching and recommended trainings, JinJa helped Raquel prioritize the YouTube platform to grow her company’s online presence, leading to increased visibility with one of her customers, the Home Shopping Network, and driving additional sales. 

Atlanta coach Justin Dawkins is a native of Metro Atlanta with more than 15 years of marketing, technology, and entrepreneurial experience. In 2012, Justin had an epiphany about the role of technology in building and scaling businesses, leading him to focus on helping his community gain access to digital tools. As a Digital Coach, he’s strengthened his ability to identify the most useful tools for the businesses he works with, while also bringing a human component to his relationships with small business owners. 

Along with his role as a coach, Justin co-founded COLLAB tackling another challenge for Black businesses — access to capital. While data shows that banks and Silicon Valley investors aren’t funding Black and Hispanic/Latinx founders at the same rate as their counterparts, Atlanta, with its vibrant entertainment scene, HBCU community, and historically Black city leadership, provides a unique environment and opportunity for Black entrepreneurs. Justin notes:

Atlanta is a special place and with commitment, adequate resources, and guidance, we can ensure it stays that way. Technology is the bridge that connects us and provides a medium for us to innovate and build. Being a Digital Coach is a privilege that allows me to educate and invest in entrepreneurs while creating community.

Since launch, Google Digital Coaches have served more than 30,000 small-business owners and entrepreneurs, delivered over 500 workshops, and partnered with more than 150 organizations. For more information, check out the Google Digital Coaches program and Grow with Google.

This piece is brought to you in partnership with Google.