By Olivia Dwyer, NAFC CPR Program Navigator
A flooring factory seems an unlikely place to find a social media mastermind. But that’s exactly where Scott Hayden headed shortly after becoming executive director of the Adirondack Folk School (AFS). It was June 2016, and Hayden wanted to meet Eric Matthison, the owner of Square Nail Rustics, and find out how he used Facebook to find clients and grow his business.
After Matthison cut the ribbon on the new site for his wide-plank flooring and rustic furniture business, Hayden asked if he could buy Matthison’s lunch and talk social media. In December 2015, Square Nail Rustics had 20,000 likes; that number would double by December 2016. Amid this growth, Matthison said he was too busy for lunch breaks, but Hayden could bring lunch to the store if he wanted to talk. Hayden did, and he still remembers what Matthison said. “He said focus on who, not what,” Hayden said. “It marked me.”
And, Haden wondered, who would be “the who” for the Adirondack Folk School? Simply put, anyone whose personal interests match the unique opportunities AFS offers.
Founded in 2010 and based in Lake Luzerne, NY, the nonprofit arts and culture organization offers non-competitive classes and workshops in Adirondack arts, crafts, and traditions. In 2022 alone, the AFS course catalog includes 280 courses from 47 expert instructors in 20 areas of craftsmanship – from fiber arts to blacksmithing to Schreiner’s course on making bark picture frames. birch. Classes are limited to eight students and each participant leaves with a finished piece of work.
“We attract people who value craftsmanship and the fulfillment you can only gain by making something you’ve worked hard to achieve,” Hayden said. “If we can connect the right ‘who’ to the right ‘what’, that’s how we can make an impact.”
Over the next few years, Hayden and AFS program manager Amy Fasulo, the school’s only full-time employees, turned that work ethic into a digital presence. They created AFS accounts on instagram and Facebook, tested online advertising options, and created content with photos of classes in progress and completed work. And when they heard about an eight-week digital marketing series available for free through ANCA’s Center for Pandemic Response (CPR), they saw a chance to learn from the experts.
“Given our limited capacity and budget, we try to take advantage of every opportunity to advance our mission,” Hayden said. “We jumped at the chance to become more efficient in reaching our ideal market and growing our audience.”
First, Hayden completed a ANCA CPR Interest Form. Next, Hayden spoke with a program navigator to identify his organization’s challenges. Next, the ANCA CPR created an individualized resilience plan for AFS by recommending technical service providers available through the program for free or at low cost. This included the digital marketing series presented by the North Country Chamber of Commerce and Workshop, a full-service advertising agency in Lake Placid.
Valued at $3,000, the program was offered free of charge to 33 ANCA CPR clients, who learned website development, search engine optimization, content strategy, public relations and influencer marketing, web analytics, and how to prioritize and budget for digital media. “The ANCA CPR program has helped us use best practices and look at data to analyze who we’re missing down to zip code,” Hayden said. As the series concluded in March 2022, the recordings are available to businesses and organizations registered with ANCA CPR.
AFS has already seen the benefit of implementing ANCA CPR services. Recently, a Massachusetts woman signed up, along with her daughter and granddaughter, for a stained glass class in July. Hayden pieced together the digital path she followed to AFS: She Googled “chair canning,” which AFS once offered but dropped. This search resulted in Google ads with related keywords, including one for Adirondack Folk School. One click took her to the AFS website. A few others found what she was looking for: a hands-on learning experience to share with multiple generations.
Just as AFS connects curious minds with unique opportunities to create beautiful crafts, ANCA CPR introduces small businesses and organizations to technical service providers supporting COVID-19 recovery and building a prosperous future. “It’s so important that we keep our small businesses, whether it’s a restaurant or a cultural organization,” Hayden said. “We appreciate ANCA’s forward thinking in reinforcing what makes our region special.”
ANCA CPR customers continue to access free expert knowledge. On April 26, experts from CITEC Business Solutions, Cooperative Development Institute and SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center discussed what they offer at the event. Strategic tools for small businesses navigating COVID-19. Watch a video recording of the workshop on ANCA’s YouTube channel.
In May 2022, these experts will lead workshops on strategic planning, participatory management and business growth planning. See full schedule and description workshops, and email [email protected] register.
The ANCA CPR is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the Mastercard Impact Fund, which is administered by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.
Check ANCA CPR webpage to learn more about the program, upcoming opportunities and how to apply.