Alex Dabagh (President) | New York, New York | Manufacturing and Retail
Alex Dabagh, Pietro NYC | New York, New York
Pierre, a Lebanese immigrant, arrived in American with $400 in his pocket. He taught himself English while working for a leather handbag manufacturer. When the owner retired, Pierre bought the factory. Alex grew up working in the factory, but his dad hoped he’d leave it all behind for a college education. Alex did a short stint at college but ultimately returned home to work beside his father in a business he enjoyed.
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.
Early on, Alex identified the need to usher Pietro NYC into the digital age. It was a slow process. After moving the company from fax to email, then came a website. At the time it produced handbags and leather goods for some of the top fashion houses and its products were carried in many major retail locations. Eventually, Alex was able to convince his dad that the future lay with digital retail rather than physical department stores alone. Alex shifted the marketing budget from traditional ads to focus on the digital side of the business. “I decided that if we were going to do this e-commerce thing, we’d better do it right,” Alex said. “That meant marketing our products, putting ad money behind them, doing social media campaigns, and going after influencers.”
Google Ads and Google Analytics have been two of Alex’s best tools because they help him better understand who his potential customers are and what they want. Instagram and Facebook have also been huge for Pietro NYC. “Social media is like our TV commercial,” Alex explains. “It not only allows us to show off our products but also enables us to connect with customers in a more intimate way. They can get a good look into our brand DNA by seeing how and where our products are made.”
Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.
When COVID-19 hit, the company stopped production. Soon, however, Pietro NYC secured a contract to produce aprons and masks for first responders. The company pivoted from making luxury goods to producing personal protective equipment, and Alex and the team took to Pietro NYC’s social channels to explain the change. As the pandemic progressed, Alex wondered if customers might be ready to consider purchasing its flagship products again. The analytics told him they would, so he started spending more on online marketing through services like Google. And, when New York allowed manufacturing to resume, Alex was able to tell the team the exact styles that would appeal most to the customers he hoped to attract. The digitally driven company quickly ramped back up to a healthy sales pace.
“My advice is to be resilient, and use all the free digital tools that are available,” Alex says. “Without them, you won’t survive in times of crisis. If you’re not able to access what’s in your office when you can’t be there, then you’re shut down completely.” Alex points to G Suite, and Google Docs in particular, as tools that helped ensure seamless connectivity for Pietro NYC throughout the pandemic. If Pierre had some advice, it would probably be his favorite phrase — “tomorrow is never promised” — which sums up the small business resiliency mindset perfectly.
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