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Zuckerberg faces hostile hearing

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, on Facebook's impact on the financial services and housing sectors. Zuckerberg faced bipartisan, hostile questions in the hearing, which focused on the social media company's plans to launch its own cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Digital technology and online platforms have been critical to my fast-growing Utah company and to many small businesses nationwide. The platforms and their tools that connect us to customers worldwide have boosted our launch and accelerated our growth. So I’m more than a little surprised that Congress and other elected officials are attacking online platforms and very concerned that government actions against the big companies may hurt small businesses like mine.

Our business idea was borne of frustration. My kids sleep in bunk beds and every morning they struggled to make their beds. After searching the internet and not finding a solution, I decided to create something that worked for my kids — an “all-in-one zipper bed set.” I worked with my mom and we sewed one for our family, but when several neighbors asked where they could buy one I realized we might have stumbled on to a business opportunity. I reached out to a friend and we decided to start our own company.

Several years and hundreds of prototypes later, we finalized our design and found a manufacturer, and then we started a Kickstarter campaign. We raised more than $100,000 from nearly 300 frustrated bedmakers, but retail stores would not even meet with us and they certainly wouldn’t put our product on their shelves. After our Kickstarter success, we were confident that consumers would buy this if they knew about it, so we got on board the e-commerce train. It’s been a wild and remarkably successful ride.

Since day one, our company has used digital tools to attract and engage customers, sell product and take returns, and manage our reputation and brand. We had no money for advertising or marketing, so we took to social media to get the word out. We used Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Houzz, Instagram and Twitter to promote our products and showcase our designs that work with every home decor. Our YouTube “how to” videos help people understand our product before they buy. Yelp, Facebook and Google host reviews. And for the very few customers who might be unhappy, FreshDesk helps manage returns.

People love our bedding! We sell all over North America and also in England, New Zealand and Australia. We get more than 3 million monthly views on Pinterest and we have more than 250,000 Instagram followers. All of these platforms require our team’s input and management, but their global reach and analytics are incredibly complex, way beyond the know-how of our small company and remarkably low-cost (sometimes free!).

For our 15 employees and thousands of customers, the benefits of digital technology and platforms are obvious. Without our digital partners we would never have started this business, and likely we could not continue in business without them. We are 100% online — primarily because that’s where our customers are.

I honestly don’t know the words to communicate how crucial the digital platforms and tools are to our business. By sharing our story and the details of our journey, I hope that Congress and our public officials will understand and appreciate the value that Facebook, Google and other digital companies deliver to small businesses — not just our business but thousands or millions more. It is so important that policymakers take account of small businesses, and as they consider whether to regulate big tech companies they ensure small companies are not harmed inadvertently.

Betsy Mikesell is co-founder and CEO of Beddy’s, a bedding company headquartered in Utah.