Garcetti's LA Optimized Initiative Helps Local Businesses Thrive by Design

Barista preparing coffee behind counter in cafe

By Sam de Leve

Photo Credit: Dan Burton on Unsplash

Calling on the City of Los Angeles’s wellspring of creative talent, Mayor Eric Garcetti's office has launched a new program, LA Optimized, to revitalize small businesses across Los Angeles that have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative matches small business owners with professional designers to help them establish a digital presence in the marketplace.

“COVID-19 has changed everything — the way we communicate, work, socialize, and shop — and our brick-and-mortar stores need to rapidly rethink how they reach their customers, market their goods, sell their products, and thrive when so much business is happening online,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Our small businesses are the backbone of our economic strength, and LA Optimized taps into the power of partnerships to equip local enterprises with a larger digital footprint and the tools necessary to gain a competitive edge and lead our pandemic recovery,” says Mayor Garcetti.

It is the kind of creative partnership that excites USC Iovine and Young Academy faculty member Matthew Manos, who has taken an active role in the program’s development. Serving on the mayor’s Creative Advisory Board, Manos helped bring together LA’s top twenty design leaders to serve as board members.

"LA Optimized is bringing together a powerhouse of mentors to support connections between our city’s most affected small businesses and local creatives," says Davina Wolter, one of the four Academy faculty appointed to the board along with Stephen Child and Grant Delgatty. "It's an honor to be part of such a talented and dedicated group."

The program is also partnering with Manos’ design firm, verynice, and ArtCenter College of Design to provide up to $500,000 to vetted creative professionals who in turn will provide to small businesses $500 worth of digital marketing and e-commerce services including branding, website design, video, photography, and graphic design of assets such as signage and menus.

LA Optimized is open to all active small businesses, prioritizing brick-and-mortar businesses in low-income communities. According to Manos, these businesses have especially struggled to stay open during the pandemic, and he believes they will benefit from building a well-designed web presence.

“During the pandemic, large and more privileged businesses have been able to put their abundant resources to good use in order to adapt quickly to the digital world, survive, and in some cases, grow,” says Manos. “However, small businesses who lack the resources, time, and know-how have struggled to stay open. In reaching these communities, and connecting them to creatives within their own community who are compensated for their work, we can create a more equitable access to the power of design.”

Overseen by the City’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Roberto Martinez, LA Optimized aims to serve up to 1,000 small businesses in its first year to boost their digital visibility and expand their e-commerce platforms. The mayor's office intends to allocate a total of $1.5 million to the initiative over its multi-year lifespan.

Manos is optimistic about what partnerships like these can do for small businesses and creative communities alike.

"I hope to see 500 businesses get the help they need, while 500 creatives get the grant they deserve,” says Manos. “I hope this initiative serves as a model for what government-subsidized pro bono can look like, and that other cities across the globe learn from what we're doing."

Businesses can enroll at

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