SMEs are harnessing the power of digital, but continue to face regulatory hurdles –

Social networks present new opportunities for SMEs to grow. But some worry that privacy requirements are stifling that growth.

Victor Dik and Felix Ermer were a German duo hanging out in Brooklyn, New York in the summer of 2012 when they stumbled upon a gap in the beauty product market.

They wanted to look and feel good, without feeling bad about it. But they found that there weren’t any natural, plant-based and cruelty-free male grooming products on the market. They decided to make some.

At a time when big companies were going in big on investing in male grooming products, they decided to stand out by founding the Brooklyn Soap Company as a fair trade alternative. They offer organic vegan male beauty products with a particular focus on beard grooming. They had to find a way to reach their target audience – young millennial men who may not yet know they even want such a product. So they turned to Facebook and its targeting advertising.

“That was the only way we could actually achieve this goal because if you don’t have $10 million per year in media spending there’s no other way to do it,” Ermer told “You have to be good with online marketing. It’s the only way you can spread the word.”

Ermer and 13 other European SME founders were gathered in Brussels on Thursday (29 June) at a Future of Business summit. The event, hosted by Facebook and The Lisbon Council, looked at the way online platforms are being used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The attendees spoke with EU policy makers and politicians about how they are using e-commerce for their growing businesses, and how EU policy could make it easier. In some areas they wanted the EU to get more involved. In other areas, they wanted the EU to butt out.

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Unhelpful legislation

Though it was born in New York, Brooklyn Soap Company is now based in Hamburg. Ermer says that digital platforms such as Facebook have been key to the company’s growth, particularly given its cross-border customer base, who largely encounter the product through social network advertising before ordering it. But he says that European regulation has sometimes gotten in the way of the company’s…

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