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Katy Rugg and RJ Lewis

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Business Owner, Meet the Internet

Digital strategist generous with free advice to help small businesses impacted by COVID to keep going

Most clients come to RJ Lewis Digital seeking to grow their businesses through e-commerce, email marketing, and customer relationship management.

When COVID-19 hit, owner RJ Lewis found herself helping businesses with much more basic needs.

“Some didn’t have websites, let alone an online store,” Lewis said. “These were small businesses, so I started looking at economical solutions and putting together digital roadmaps.”

It’s all in a day’s work for an entrepreneur who feels “uniquely qualified to help clients understand the digital side of things.”

“People are on social media and online, but putting it all together, there’s no how-to,” Lewis said. “I’m really good at breaking it down and putting together a package that feels natural.”

Lewis started in web development and design in the late 1990s. By 2010, she was innovating new digital products.

“When I first started, there was no commercial sales funnel to test audience engagement. I developed one,” Lewis said. Now that such online marketing tools are commercially available, Lewis focuses on affordable options. “These tools don’t have to be financially crippling for small business,” Lewis said. “Some of the commercial options can cost thousands of dollars a month. I can do it for less – and I go out of my way to make the tools better than what’s out there.”

Thus, while building a website for a prominent public speaker, Lewis also created infrastructure for a series of online video courses. For another client, Lewis built an Influence Academy to promote thought leadership on LinkedIn. Often, she helps clients with online content – blogs and email newsletters – to help them get found on Google.

During the pandemic quarantine, Lewis continued to work as usual, while also supervising at-home academics for her three children. But she felt especially driven to help other small businesses, especially those that had been depending on physical contact with customers.

“I sought out brick-and-mortar businesses to brainstorm with them about digital programs that would be adaptable to their businesses,” she said.

One such business was Petal Palate, which offers small-batch, artisanal foods made with edible flowers and herbs. Urban gardener Katy Rugg, whose flowers come from her lush backyard gardens, had been setting up booths at community events and promoting through Facebook. With Lewis’s help, Rugg set up an online store and created an email list to reach customers directly.

“RJ’s advice came at a very critical time for me,” said Rugg, who also has worked at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and has collaborated on planting projects at the Sunrise Senior Living Community in Bon Air, McDonough Community Garden in Southside, and Historic Jackson Ward. “I remembered meeting RJ in person at a Boss Babes event, and so I knew she would be a great person to talk with.”

Visitors to Rugg’s site,, which advertises “Stop to smell your flowers … and eat them, too,” can now purchase wildflower seeds and herbal teas online.

Lewis praised Rugg for immediately embracing new digital options. “We just had a conversation,” Lewis said, “and she took it and ran with it.”

Similarly, Lewis offered pro bono consulting to a New Jersey nonprofit on how to convert an annual gala to a virtual format with an online silent auction. She also gave no-cost consulting to a local jewelry designer on e-commerce and suggested DIY kits to help her stay in business while customers sheltered at home.

Now, as the economy recharges, Lewis has added “digital roadmapping” to her repertoire.

“I’m helpful by nature,” Lewis said. “I feel like in this period of time, I was in a position to be of service.”

  • Katy Rugg and RJ Lewis