NAME GLO

www.name-glo.com

Sas Simon (Cofounder) & Lena Imamura (Cofounder) | New York, New York | Events / Entertainment / Education

NAME GLO

“It’s less that we made a conscious decision to become a digital-first company and more that it was the only option we even considered.”

Lena Imamura, NAME GLO | New York, New York

Sas Simon, an actress, and Lena Imamura, a visual artist, have always been fans of light. In 2014, when Sas’s nephew was born, she hoped he might grow up to be a fan of light as well. But when she tried to order a specialized neon light for him, she found the process surprisingly opaque and difficult. So, Sas teamed up with her artist friend Lena and opened a business that would allow them to produce their own custom-made neon pieces. NAME GLO quickly evolved from passion project to profitable venture. Yet, right when things seemed to be going well, along came COVID-19 with a host of unforeseen challenges. The pair turned to the digital tools that helped them build their business in the first place to effectively weather the storm and find unexpected opportunities to do good.

“When we first launched NAME GLO in 2016, digital tools were just about the only thing we had. Everything we did was online,” Lena recalls. “It’s less that we made a conscious decision to become a digital-first company and more that it was the only option we even considered.” For Sas, Lena, and the broader NAME GLO team, that meant turning to Squarespace for a website and a range of operational tools. This began with Google’s G Suite tools, such as Gmail and Google Docs, and grew to include Streak (a Gmail-based CRM), Asana for project management, and Zapier for integration. Social media channels were key for advertising the company’s products because they didn’t have a budget for ads.

As 2020 dawned, NAME GLO realized a years-long goal of bringing production in-house and finished moving into a new flagship storefront location in New York City’s Lower East Side neighborhood. But soon COVID-19 hit. “We had made a lot of investments, and we were banking on those decisions paying off at the beginning of the year. Instead, we suddenly felt the floor drop beneath us. We were forced to close our doors, stop production, and toss our entire plan out the window.”

53%

of SMBs found digital tools more helpful to them during the crisis than pre-crisis.

Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.

The initial blows were jarring, but Sas and Lena didn’t take long to figure out how to make the best of a difficult situation. They relied on Google Meet for regular team meetings and Slack to stay constantly connected. They changed their social media messaging to better fit the national mood and their customers’ needs. Additionally, the pair implemented more flexible digital payment options for buyers and started branching out to use other platforms they hadn’t previously taken full advantage of. That included tending more to the company’s Google My Business and Pinterest pages, adding products to Instagram Shopping, and investing in Google Ads to target new customers. Because they had just opened a new brick-and-mortar location with production capabilities, Sas and Lena figured they should put it to positive use. They started producing face shields to donate to health-care workers and ended up providing more than 2,500 units.

93%

of U.S. SMBs were disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.

They experienced effects across the board: 43% reduced hours of operation, 30% saw reduced customer demand, 28% had disrupted supply chains, and 20% laid off employees.

As businesses cautiously phase in reopening plans, Sas and Lena have a new project: producing posters and neon lights that help remind others to wear masks, wash hands, and keep the rest of the community safe. It advances a positive social goal and it also happens to be smart business. “More and more businesses are going to need products like these as we continue transitioning toward a new normal under COVID-19,” Lena says. “We’re glad to be able to do what we can to help out.” Things are starting to look up again for this digitally driven business. They’re planning a few new launches in the coming months. Sas and Lena know that digital tools helped sustain their company through an extremely difficult period. But they don’t want to see brick-and-mortar stores and neighborhoods replaced with an all-digital approach. Rather, they believe the physical and digital sides of a business should support one another in an organic way. And, from the looks of it, that’s exactly what they’ve achieved at NAME GLO.

As businesses cautiously phase in reopening plans, Sas and Lena have a new project: producing posters and neon lights that help remind others to wear masks, wash hands, and keep the rest of the community safe.

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