Local businesses digitize their way to riches

A small shop with loud colors and the inviting scent of freshly baked cookies becomes more and more crowded as the night goes on. The success of this company is derived, in part, by an intangible social network.

“Every time we publish a new flavor or a big announcement on Instagram the lines are out the door,” said Andrew Gonzalez, founder of Night Owl Cookie Co.

Social media have given South Floridians and Americans, in general, a unique opportunity to create new, niched industries and a company’s online presence can make or break any startup.

Social media give new businesses a relatively inexpensive marketing option, especially for companies needing to get exposure for more bizarre or exclusive product lines.

More important, it gives them a chance to grow.

There are two examples of Miami-based small businesses that illustrate how social media can cater to distinct clienteles.

In Gonzalez’s case, social media skyrocketed his idea of delivering freshly-baked cookies to your doorstep to satisfy that midnight sweet tooth.

Justin Perdomo, a baker at Night Owl Cookie Co., prepares Captain Crunch cookies for a customer. (Photo by Hilly Yehoshua)

What started as an online delivery service for students at Florida International University and its surrounding community now has people from all over South Florida running to its brick-and-mortar location or ordering on applications like UberEATS and Postmates.

However, these cookies are more than just the conventional chocolate chip. Night Owl Cookie Co. features flavors like Birthday Cake and Couch Potato. Other flavors, such as the Ave Maria, cater specifically to Miami’s rich Latin culture by including ingredients like guava and Maria cookie crumbles. 

Night Owl is most well-known for its active use of Instagram. The company’s page has pictures of rich and colorful cookies front and center, seemingly popping off the screen and igniting a craving for Night Owl’s eccentric varieties. These unusual treats became a citywide phenomenon that all started with an idea and an aggressive social media presence.

When posting pictures on Instagram, Gonzalez says that he can’t send anything out unless it’s picture-perfect, “Instagrammable” food.

Instagram also prominently features local clothing and accessory brands such as LYNK Studios, which is run by four full-time students at Florida International University.

This brand sells exclusively online. Their limited series consists of intricately designed hand-woven blankets and scarves along with four simple necklaces. Ludmilla Belle Canto, co-founder of LYNK Studio, says her brand really targets people like her who are looking for unique designs and are willing to spend a bit more on quality, hand-crafted products.

“When marketing our brand, Instagram is our number one outlet,” says Canto, the L in LYNK. “We try to attract customers by keeping our content as original as possible and posting on a daily basis.”

The company uses the term and hashtag “metropical” to describe how they pay homage to the tropical metropolitan area that they call home. Their Instagram page, run by the founders themselves, clearly reflects the exclusivity and the uniquely elegant Miami feel.

The women of LYNK achieve this by staying true to their personal style. Photo shoots for the social media page always feature a tropical color scheme. The featured products themselves are often positioned in a more subtle manner to add more to the chic look.

Miami-based companies that do the majority of their business online are increasingly professionalizing their digital operations to build and sustain their reputations. That, in turn, has created new positions for those seeking careers in the management of social media sites.

“Social media is basically free marketing that gives business owners content control in order to get their message across,” said Nasha Clark, a public relations manager who ran Impact ’17, an entrepreneurship conference in Miami.

“Growing [your business] on social media is definitely possible for just about anyone with the right passion for what they do and a drive to succeed.”

There are also a variety of ways for an entrepreneur to learn more about how to effectively manage their online accounts. One way is through a website called hootsuite.com, which can train and certify anyone in social media managing.

“I think every business could be successful through social media,” Gonzalez says. “As long as you market yourself right and use it to your advantage.”

Watch this video to learn more about his story.