COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – As the pandemic presses on, so does financial hardship for many small businesses across the state.

Google launched a free online training program in South Carolina on Tuesday aimed at giving Black and Latino small business owners the tools they need to succeed.

Styles Confidential Hair Studio and the Americas Servicios in Richland County have both had to transition to online bookings and appointments since the pandemic hit.

They say “Grow with Google” will help them spread the word about their services and also help them learn how to keep their businesses alive in today’s virtual world. 

At the Americas Servicios in West Columbia, the office is empty and most appointments have moved online. 

“We are adapting ourselves to this new era, that’s what’s keeping us afloat,” said Ulises Chaves, CEO of the Americas Servicios.

Chavez and his staff provide interpretation and tax services for the Latino community, but since the pandemic hit, business has slowed. 

“We have to reinvent ourselves technology has been our best friend,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of things online, so that’s the new income for us.”

Chavez considers himself lucky to still have job and to know how to move his business online. 

“Black and Latino owned businesses have been a little bit behind the curve in the digital space,” said Shennice Cleckley, entrepreneur, SC CEO of Smart Cookie Coaching and SC digital coach.

Cleckley is helping launch Google’s digital coaches program in South Carolina to give small minority business owners the tools they need to stay in business.

“Back in March, you know everyone was kind of in a panic. Once they got a strategy in place and learned some of the tools that they needed in order to get out there on social media, get out there to collaborate with others, they’ve been actually able to increase their profits more than what they thought they would need to do,” she said.

Cleckley has already helped small businesses, like Styles Confidential Hair Studio, create websites to expand their customer base.

“Online presence is today’s society- I wasn’t doing very much of online booking sites,” said Belinda Harmon, owner of Styles Confidential Hair Studio “I believe the more presence they see of certain salons they’ll be more intrigued to want to come.”

And she’s hopeful Grow with Google will help even more minority businesses thrive. 

“These small Businesses are bringing jobs they’re bringing goods or services and you can see the touch points right there right in your community you don’t have to go far and that just makes me well up with pride,” said Cleckley.

Grow with Google will hold between three to five virtual sessions a month. You can register for the free classes here: