What do King Arthur Flour, Dakota Angler & Outfitter, FashionableRevZilla, and School on Wheels have in common? While wildly different in what we provide, each of us was among the 50 small businesses across the United States invited to attend Google’s first ever Small Business Meetup at their corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California last week. One organization in each state was selected by Google to attend, and we are proud to have represented the state of Indiana. When we arrived, we were also surprised to learn we were the only non-profit selected for recognition!

Grow with Google

We don’t sell a product, but we do give children experiencing homelessness the educational tools necessary to secure a high school education and a job that provides a living wage so that they can become a part of a thriving economy. Over the course of the two day event, Google provided amazing learning opportunities for us to further our impact by leveraging more of their free resources. These tools will allow us to recruit more volunteers, build relationships with more donors, and advocate for the children we serve online.

sally and claire on the map

Our Founder & CEO, Sally Bindley, and I travelled to California the last week of June for our whirlwind adventure. The event kicked off at the Googleplex Monday night for a meet and greet with all the other businesses. After meeting lots of new people and learning more about some really great small businesses across the USA, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for day two.

Tuesday kicked off back at Google headquarters with a session focused on succeeding in a micro-moments world. After learning more about little moments that drive online decision-making, we heard from the folks from YouTube about how to share stories through video while getting some insights into how to use YouTube Director. We even heard from a panel of fellow small business attendees who are using video marketing in fun and creative ways. The morning presentations closed with a session on using digital insights to inform marketing, including the Primer app which is one of Google’s newest tools for marketers and lets users take bite-sized marketing lessons.

IMG_0696

Our morning sessions proved that, while we have a good grasp on many of Google’s tools, there are so many more resources available to help us. As a non-profit, we are always seeking ways to have the most impact using the fewest resources. Google is one of those ways we can have impact while spending little to no money when driving new audiences to learn all the ways they can engage with our mission.

After the morning sessions closed we had the opportunity to take advantage of the free lunches offered at one of Google’s 30+ on campus cafes. And yes, the food at Google lives up to the hype – I had farro salad and a jerk-spiced seitan rice bowl for those inquiring minds. While we enjoyed our lunch, we were able to bask in the perfect California weather on Pear Patio before our afternoon of campus tours and one-on-one meetings with Google experts. Three hours was barely enough time to take in everything — from the Android sculpture garden to Stan the T-Rex to Zen gardens and multi-colored bicycles.

IMG_0700 2

The highlight of the trip, and the part we’d planned for the most, was our scheduled one-on-one meeting with a Google expert who helped evaluate the way we were using our free Google AdWords to drive audiences to our site. Our expert had some helpful insights about keywords we could be using and how we can be more creative with videos. We’re already looking forward to following up with him next week to further explore some of the ideas we discussed in our meeting. Considering we’ve never spent a dime on Google products, we’re blown away by the continued support we’ll be receiving from Google to help us reach our potential. 

dinner cruise

If all of this sounds like a lot, it was, but there was even more for us waiting. After a day of education and exploration, we hopped on shuttles to San Francisco where we enjoyed a dinner cruise around the bay. We cruised by the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate, AT&T Park, and Alcatraz. It was the perfect time to catch up with all the amazing businesses we’d met over the past two days and take in some beautiful views.

We know it was an amazing experience for every business in attendance, but even more so for a non-profit like us that puts its dollars back into programming and not marketing. This free professional development opportunity was something that will have impact on our marketing efforts well into the future and we are forever grateful for our opportunity to #growwithgoogle.

Google Group Shop

For more about all of the businesses featured in the 2017 Google Economic Impact Report and invited to attend the first ever Google Small Business Meetup, you can download the full report here, and be sure to read School on Wheels’ story.

All professional photos courtesy of JennaBeth Photography.