Business

Small Business Success Story: Digital Respons-Ability

An SBA loan from Zions Bank helped this small business pivot during the COVID-19 recession.

Kallee Feuz Jan 22, 2021

A digital parenting thought leader has a message for parents and caregivers stressed out about screen time: “Parents, you’re doing OK. Keep loving, keep communicating and don’t worry so much about screens.”

That’s the guidance of Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, founder of Digital Respons-Ability. “We’re going through a lot, and screens can be a wonderful lifeline.” 

As a provider of digital citizenship education, Rogers-Whitehead’s company is changing the conversation around digital responsibility at home in Utah and in classrooms around the world.

The librarian-turned-entrepreneur, who also has two Master’s degrees under her belt, has observed through her work that adults tend to have strong opinions about technology, but they may not be based in reality.

“Parents had a different internet than their kids,” she says. “They don’t understand the technology their children are using and how and why they are using it.”

That lack of understanding often leads to fear, she says, which Digital Respons-Ability aims to replace with digital empowerment.

Rather than focusing on “good” and “bad,” Digital Respons-Ability helps children assess “good, better and best” technology choices and learn to make decisions about their digital diets.

From Librarian to Entrepreneur

Rogers-Whitehead gave up her pension and full-time library career to start Digital Respons-Ability in 2016. After getting contracts with several state agencies and school districts, the U.S. Department of Defense purchased its teacher training for use in military schools around the world.

In 2019, the company landed a contract with the State of Utah as the statewide provider of online safety education curriculum. Digital Respons-Ability had to scale rapidly to extend its services to students statewide.

Rogers-Whitehead initially relied on a credit card for the necessary capital to expand, then she was able to get funding through a U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loan through Zions Bank.

As the coronavirus pandemic closed schools, the company created virtual trainings to help students navigate the deepening digital world, as screen time skyrocketed as much as 500%, according to one study.

Over the summer, the company’s state funding became a casualty of coronavirus-related legislative budget cuts, but Rogers-Whitehead is hopeful it will return in 2021.

In the meantime, her company is finding avenues to provide digital education at a time when people need it most. A new book, “Becoming a Digital Parent: A Practical Guide to Help Families Navigate Technology,” was released Dec. 30. And the company has created a series of free online resources, including training videos and family media plans for parents. 

Businesses Respond to Changing Consumer Behavior

Although the COVID-19 recession has been disruptive to small businesses, a recent Small Biz Buzz survey from the UPS Store revealed that 41% of companies have pivoted their businesses for success — a phenomenon noted by Utah’s top U.S. Small Business Administration lender, Zions Bank. 

“Because small businesses have long been the engine that drive job growth, it’s encouraging to see many companies pivot to meet the needs of their customers,” said Zions Bank president and CEO Scott Anderson. “Their ability to adapt to changing market conditions will position our communities to grow and recover from economic challenges.” 

As a leader in SBA lending, Zions Bank’s team of relationship managers can help you find the right SBA loan* for your business. Apply for a business loan online anytime or visit a local Zions Bank branch to learn more.

Kallee Feuz is a Public Relations officer for Zions Bank.

*Loans subject to credit approval and SBA approval. Terms and conditions apply. See a banker for details.

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