Social Media and the Small Business Owner: Lessons from Scotty Wise

I decided that my social media conversation with Arnold Park, of West Coast Tacos, needed to be continued with Scotty Wise, of Scotty’s Brewhouse. Fashion industry entrepreneurs can learn something from Wise and Park. While Fashion and Food are two different industries, the entrepreneurial spirit that drivers people to start their own businesses is the same as well as many of the principles of marketing and customer service. Since many of people reading this are small business owners, I thought it might be interesting to read how the use of social media has aided in the success of a local entrepreneur.

Wise is owner of Scotty’s Brewhouse, Thr3e Wise Men Brewery, and Scotty’s Lakehouse restaurants. Wise has been recognized for his use of social media in business. Most recently he has been awarded the “Techpoint MIRA New Media Innovation Award”. I was excited to hear what advice Wise had for other entrepreneurs in Indianapolis.

Jeremiah Williams: So I have read a blog you wrote for where you told how Scotty’s started, with you being 22 and buying the Mugly’s building. What gave you the confidence, at 22, that you could start your first restaurant?

Scotty Wise: The blessing and the curse of youth and naivete!

The Mugly’s building on campus was available for purchase and Wise took advantage of the opportunity placed in front of him. Scotty compared being an entrepreneur to being in extreme sports.

SW: I get excited when looking at business ventures. There is a risk in running business. After opening my first Scotty’s, I opened a second restaurant that failed. The thrill seeking is in the loss and owing money to the bank. You go through failures and learn from them. You learn not to make the same mistake twice.

2009 brought the Brewhouse to Indianapolis. Wise refers to the Downtown location as the “Crown Jewel” of the company.

JW: Why move to Indianapolis?

SW: Indy made perfect sense because of the income and the population. In 2006 when investigating Indianapolis locations, my dad and banks told me it wouldn’t work. I was told the idea wouldn’t make it in Indy. As an entrepreneur, telling me “no” started a fire for the idea. The success of the Scotty’s name had built-in name recognition and advertising, from the success of the college campus locations. A lot of the students who went to Scotty’s in college are now professionals living or working in the city. Downtown is the gateway to our city. When people visit our city they normally stay downtown. There is the convention traffic to the city that also persuaded us to move downtown.

Turns out that Wise was right that the Scotty’s concept would do well in Indianapolis. When many restaurants and retail locations are closing, business is booming at Scotty’s. Why? Could the way Wise has harnessed the power of social media be responsible, at least in part, for this success?  Wise has been recognized by multiple publications for his use of social media in his business success. My first trip to Scotty’s Brewhouse was because of a tweet Wise tweeted.

JW: When did you realize the importance of using social media in business?

SW: I am a guy that likes technology. I like new toys. I realized early on where the world was going. I think of myself as the average consumer. I think about where people will see the marketing. I think about where I would see the ad first. I started with Myspace and Facebook. I put the images from the e-blasts on Myspace. I thought, ‘who wants to just come and read marketing’. I got noticed for my social media efforts by the different way I did it. I decided not to hold back. I talk about life, sports, things that I find funny, and then throw in a marketing message.

Following Wise on twitter you get the opportunity to get to know him on a deeper level socially. You also get to interact with the brand through random contests and dialog. For example during the winter season, Wise came up with a fun contest. The first few people that tweeted a photo of themselves licking a metal pole would win a gift card. Even Wise was taken aback by the participation.

There is a good lesson here for local fashion industry entrepreneurs. If you’re a promoter, instead of just pitching your fashion event, promote your journey of putting it all together and have ticket giveaway contests. If you’re a designer, talk about the process of creating the garments, selecting models, fittings, whatever else is involved. Check in on Facebook or via FourSquare at fabric stores when selecting fabrics. Post images of your work.  If you’re a makeup artist ask your followers to pick the look for your next photoshoot. If you’re a photographer, post images that inspire you or share technical know-how that could be helpful to your followers. If you’re a boutique owner, talk about new inventory coming in, upcoming sales and also ask your followers which designers or trends or accessories they would love to see your store carry. The possibilities are endless! Using social media to let your followers know more about you and your process will encourage investment in your success. People are more likely to pay attention to your product and business if they have seen your process in getting there and “own” a small part of it. Social media is also one of the best ways to have fun and interact with your customers and potential clients without leaving the comfort of your office, store, studio or home.

Wise mentioned another reason why he embraced the use of social media in his business – the recession.

SW: I didn’t want to lay anyone off. During the recession, I needed to look at cutting expenses. The easiest way to chop expenses is cutting the marketing budget. I cut all traditional marketing, so I didn’t have to lay people off.

Wise took advantage of the free advertising and branding that could be done through Twitter, Facebook, and foursquare check-ins. He was able to use these free avenues of getting his message out and getting people into his restaurant. Once in the restaurant, he further strengthened his brand by placing marketing messages around the building.

JW: What do you think is the next thing for tech savvy businesses?

SW: The next thing I am keeping my eye on are QR CODES. There is some great potential in their use.

JW: What advice would you give the local entrepreneur who is just getting started with social media?

SW: The way to build your followers, is to stick with it. Be authentic with your conversations. Social media is not one way marketing, it’s a conversation. You are only limited to your own creativity. Think outside the box. That said I am not looking to give the answers, but to share my experience. What works for Scotty’s might not work for your business.

JW: So what do you think about  Indianapolis as whole?

SW: Indy is going in the right direction although losing Borders and Nordstrom, was a big hit to downtown retail. Indianapolis needs a grocery store or a big box retailer; That will bring more people wanting to live downtown. We need something for the people who are living in the city. Still, there’s a lot of positive things; The Market St. Project, South St. project, and the growth of Mass Ave will all make the city better and stronger. It’s a group effort. The city can’t just close at five o’clock. I also think that Conseco does a great job with events. These events drive people into the city, which grows the commerce. The Indians stadium. The Lucas stadium. These are all strengths. There is growth. And that is a positive sign.

Before I let Wise go, I quizzed him on his personal style – wouldn’t be much of a style blogger, if I didn’t! Day-to-day, you’ll see Wise usually wearing a pair of Chucks, denim, and a t-shirt. But don’t be fooled, I found out that he likes his Prada and D&G too! If you catch Wise on one of his regular appearances on “Inside Indiana”, you will see him wearing the standard dark colored suit paired with a little pattern on pattern layering, but Wise is not afraid to play around with fashion. He listed Frankie’s, Barneys, and Saks as great resources for shopping. He also likes Hugo Boss because of the great fit and classic look. Business and style sense all rolled into one dude!

Wise is definitely a trend-setter in more ways than one and based on the success of his restaurants, this city appreciates what he is doing. I know I do!

Thanks for the chat, Scotty!

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