Feliciano Zavala doesn’t want his small business to go back in time. But that’s exactly what he fears will happen if Congress passes S. 2992 or other measures to change the digital economy.

When Feliciano started Peninsula Party Rentals in Palo Alto, Calif., 17 years ago, he struggled to spread the word and compete against national party rental chains and big box stores. Traditional advertising was expensive, and it was difficult to understand if the ads were even working. “We were stuck in the same place, without growth, and worrying every day if we were going to make it to the next day,” he says.

Then Feliciano turned to digital solutions for his very un-digital party rental business and moved all his advertising online. He started using social media, digital ads, and free marketing tools like Google Business Profile to promote his business. And Google Analytics helped him learn precisely which ads were working and where their web traffic was coming from. With a little trial and error, Feliciano’s business finally began to turn a profit.

“We started to see little black numbers at the end of our reports instead of red,” he says.

Now, broad sweeping antitrust proposals in Congress would break apart those easy-to-use and affordable digital tools and services that small businesses like Peninsula Party Rentals value, making managing, marketing, and expanding more cumbersome, inefficient, and expensive.

Small businesses like Feliciano’s currently have choices about which platforms they use, and those platforms compete fiercely for his business. When the data showed that social media ads weren’t as effective as other online ads, Feliciano was able to adjust quickly without wasting precious resources. But S. 2992 won’t help Feliciano compete against chains and big box stores if it makes digital tools more expensive and less effective.
“It’s going to be devastating for us,” he says. “We may not survive because we don’t have the budget.”

“We are counting on those digital tools that are very cost effective, to help us with bringing in new customers and communicating with our existing customers.”

— Feliciano Zavala, Peninsula Party Rentals

A level playing field

Today, Feliciano doesn’t know where his business and eight full-time employees would be without digital tools and services that help him reach new customers and compete with larger competitors.

One of his concerns is the impact legislation could have on the cost of advertising. It’s something he’s familiar with from when his business first started—in the days when Yellow Pages reigned. Back then, advertising put a $12,000-a-month dent in Feliciano’s business ledger —and he was only able to reach local customers.

Today, Peninsula Party Rentals spends about $500 a month on digital ads that reach customers all over the Bay Area. “Digital tools put us on a very level playing field with other companies,” he says. “My ad can appear right next to Walmart or any other big companies.”

While larger companies could easily adjust to higher advertising costs, Zavala says his business couldn’t. “I wouldn’t be able to compete at all,” he says. “They win. I lose.”

That prospect is sobering. The proposed legislation could undo all the hard work the Mexican immigrant and his family have poured into the business for the past 17 years when they started the company from their garage to provide a better future for their four kids.

“Everything about owning a business is very hard. We sacrifice so many things,” he says. “If this bill passes, all the sacrifices are going to be in vain.”

Vote No on S.2992