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NYS program to help COVID-impacted small businesses increase online sales

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here in March,

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, seen here in March, said "By helping small businesses grow their digital presence, we're providing them the tools to be more competitive, resilient and successful." Credit: Office of the Governor

Small businesses in New York that want to increase their online sales will receive discounts and technical assistance from several online shopping platforms under a state program approved Thursday.

Empire State Digital aims to help small businesses start selling goods and services online or to increase such sales as they struggle to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the discounts being offered is free use of Shopify for the first 90 days for businesses registering with the online platform before Nov. 30, free website-building tools from Square and free training from Etsy and Clearbanc.

The program was unanimously approved Thursday by the board of Empire State Development, the state’s primary business-aid agency. ESD worked with the state Department of Financial Services to create the program.

"By helping small businesses grow their digital presence, we’re providing them the tools to be more competitive, resilient and successful," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

Empire State Digital is designed for businesses with 100 or fewer employees, though it's open to larger businesses as well, according to ESD. The program offers expert advice on website construction, processing of customer payments, package delivery and advertising, among others.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the Brooklyn-based shopping platform allows small business owners to "connect with millions of buyers across the globe. When you shop on Etsy, you're directly impacting someone's life by supporting both their creative passion and their small business — and small businesses need our support now more than ever," he said.

Shopify retail director Arpan Podduturi agreed, saying the Ottawa, Canada, company is "committed to helping these businesses succeed during and beyond the pandemic."

Shopify is offering Empire State Digital participants free contactless payment equipment and a $500 credit on purchases from the Shopify app store.

Clearbanc, a venture capital firm in Toronto, is offering discounted rates on funding and free business valuations.

Empire State Digital was approved by the ESD board in a five-minute virtual meeting on Thursday. Agency CEO Eric Gertler said the program was the first of its kind in the country. More information may be found at nwsdy.li/ESD.

Separately, small businesses in Suffolk County have been receiving help to sell goods and services online since May via Suffolk Forward.

The collaboration between the county, Stony Brook University's College of Business and the Huntington online startup eGifter aids businesses with website improvements and enrolls them in Operation Main Street, eGifter's online directory of gift card providers. The directory, operationmainstreet.com, lists 135 retailers from Suffolk and 99 from Nassau.

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