This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner Wake Technical Community College.

RALEIGH — What do spinach, sewing machines and social media have in common? Not a whole lot – except technology!

According to entrepreneurs and small business owners, technology plays a role in everything from urban farming and custom tailoring, to personal branding and business coaching.

Technology doesn’t just encompass Elon Musk’s latest Tesla or cancer breakthroughs; it’s your coffee maker, your shower, the stoplight on the corner, and the passkey that gets you into your building. Everyone uses it, and entrepreneurs and small businesses are integrating it in ways that are innovative and even revolutionary.

Keeping up can be overwhelming, said Martin Brossman, director of Martin Brossman & Associates and a leader in networking and small business training in North Carolina. While we wait impatiently behind someone who’s writing a check, tech saavy consumers may feel the same way about debit cards as things like Apple Pay become commonplace.

Brossman said entrepreneurs don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but they do need to know what will help them.

“It’s OK to resist new technology,” he said, “but not if it will benefit you and your business.”

It’s also OK to hire an expert who can do it better and faster than you, he said.

Brossman teaches community college classes through The Small Business Center Network. When he started teaching in 2006, people were markedly averse to being on Facebook. Fast forward to 2018, when Facebook has more than 65 million local business pages.

Businesses are getting rid of paper and opting for cloud storage instead. Small businesses are taking advantage of new tools and software to optimize best practices.

Larry Harvey, owner and operator of Larry’s Tailor Shop, can relate.

“Technology has been a challenge for me,” he admitted. “Everything has become lightning fast in recent years. New technology is something you have to keep up with, along with maintaining customers and trying to stay relevant.”

Harvey recently started a Facebook page for his business, something he said he “wasn’t keen on.”

“I had a class at Wake Tech that showed me its importance,” Harvey said.

Harvey was in the first cohort of the LaunchRALEIGH program, a collaborative community economic development initiative of which the Wake Technical Community College/Wells Fargo Center for Entrepreneurship is the training partner. He said the eight-week class reiterated the basics of building a business and helped him get up-to-date on “the multimedia aspects of promoting your business.”

Harvey will soon hire someone to handle the digital aspects of his business and manage his social media so he can focus on his “art form.”

While Harvey has seen technology as necessary but burdensome, small-business owner Tami Purdue has embraced it to ramp up her indoor urban farm, Sweet Peas Urban Gardens.

Sweet Peas Urban Gardens offers hydroponic microgreens grown from organic seeds in a custom CropBox.

Purdue grows hydroponic microgreens from organic seeds in her custom CropBox, a shipping container that has been technologically adapted for indoor urban agriculture.

“It has software that regulates temperature, monitors humidity, the pH in the water, and when to turn on lights and watering pumps,” Purdue explained.

Perdue has an app on her phone that can run everything in the CropBox remotely. She can grow 20 tons of “teeny, tiny veggies” annually – no small feat, especially given the size of the crops.

“When I first saw that I could monitor every aspect of the growing environment and track it from year to year and season to season, I loved it,” said Purdue, who has come a long way from monitoring soil in spreadsheets.

Another way technology is transforming indoor agriculture is with LED lights that help crops grow more efficiently. “These lights simulate the sun so precisely, they give the plants everything they need,” she said.

When investors took an interest in Purdue’s business, she turned to Wake Tech’s Small Business Center for help writing a compelling one-pager showcasing the value of her enterprise.

Brossman said technology is extremely important because it helps him maximize what he does best. And while it can be tempting to keep up with Joneses, he said, “we don’t have to have every new toy.”

“There are plenty of ways brick and mortar businesses can use new-age technology to their advantage, to monitor and manage their business on site,” he said. “Tools that help businesses understand their customers better are always a good thing to look into.”

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner looking to drive your business forward, the Wake Tech Small Business Center and the Wake Tech/Wells Fargo Center for Entrepreneurship can help, along with networking groups like the Business Alliance of North Carolina, and the many business-oriented meet-ups around the Triangle.

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner Wake Technical Community College.