The traditional small business model relies heavily on building a community presence, a familiar customer base, and a signature style of in-person service.

But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses were being forced to adapt to an increasingly virtual world and adopt new operating procedures, and this very different holiday shopping season is only exacerbating some of the inherent hurdles.

New Jersey small businesses struggling with the transition online can get easily available assistance from the state, according to Don Newman, manager of the Office of Small Business Advocacy for the New Jersey Business Action Center.

Newman said his office has been partnering with the state's Small Business Development Centers to ease the e-commerce burden, and that's crucial since "time is short" with the Christmas rush already upon us.

"And there are those that are going to be a little behind, and really need to start from scratch and look forward towards doing that more in the future," he said.

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The most important thing when shifting online, Newman said, is for a business to consider what it needs, then think about what resources will help achieve that goal — monetary or otherwise.

"Because there are so many different models, there's not a single answer to any of these questions. It really takes sitting down and doing the hard work of putting down something into a plan," he said.

COVID has changed not only how businesses large and small are run, but what products and services they provide. Newman cited DoorDash as one example, along with janitorial companies which are now offering sanitization measures.

"There are businesses that have not only adjusted to the buying habits of the consumers, but have also adjusted to opportunities that have come about because of the changing world," he said.

Should a small business seek a partnership with an established marketplace such as Etsy? Or develop its own platform, even though that puts the burdens of payment processing, distribution, and timely fulfillment solely on the business' shoulders?

Again, the solutions are not one-size-fits-all, according to Newman.

"Do you need a more broad marketplace, like an Amazon or one of the others that are available to you?" he said. "And those are going to be decisions based on what your business does."

Small businesses looking for help this December, and beyond, can contact,, or 1-800-JERSEY-7.

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