Newark area small businesses get crash course on social networks

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

“I was baking and people would ask if they could buy and it started to grow,” said Nicole Josey, owner of Leilo’s Sweet Shop in South Orange.

A smile came to Nicole Josey’s face as she described the first cheesecake she made from scratch at the age of 11. An even bigger smile appears when she talks about the woman who taught her how to bake, her grandmother, Leilo, the namesake of her company.

“She showed me how to roll the dough, how the temperature has to be, how to make sure you’re not over mixing,” said Josey.

In the past two years, her sales have nearly tripled from $12,000 to $32,000. How’d she do it? She says 90 percent of her business comes from social networks.

“I had to learn when to post, those insights and those statistics that Facebook and Instagram both give you are very valuable,” she said.

Her Instagram account has over 16,000 followers, and she says she uses Facebook to connect with her roughly 500 friends.

Josey is one of the panelists at a free Facebook workshop for Newark area small businesses. It’s designed to help owners learn tools to help engage customers and in turn, boost sales using platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

“Video is very popular on the platform, we really push that. We have Facebook Live now, which is a great tool for businesses,” said Janelle Mungo, programs manager for small business at Facebook.

Everywhere you turned, small business owners were snapping pictures and posting.

When asked if there is specific time of the day to post, Mungo replied, “It really depends on your customer base. If your client base is working parents, you probably don’t want to post during the workday.”

A survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Facebook found when hiring New Jersey small businesses valued digital and social media skills 8 percent more than which school an applicant attended.

“Every 2.3 net jobs comes from a small business,” said U.S. Rep. Donald Payne.

And in New Jersey, there are over 800,000 small businesses currently employing 50 percent of the workforce.

“These people want technical support,” said Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Alford says he’s been an entrepreneur just about his entire adult life.

Alford elaborated on his struggle, “Tell me about it. I’ve been the whole route, I’ve been bankrupt, lost a home, up and down. I’m a living example.”

Nicole Josey is another example of someone who’s worked her way up and credits her business to her grandmother’s inspiration.

“I think that she would be amazed. It’s always great, even when people call me ‘Leilo,’ it kind of makes me melt a little bit,” she said.

They may have started a tradition because Josey’s 5-year-old daughter is now taking an interest in the kitchen.