Dell Brainstorms with Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs at SXSW

One of my favorite things about South By Southwest (SXSW) has always been the annual opportunity it affords me to be face-to-face with many people that I only interact with online throughout the year.

The favorite thing about the event for Austin-area businesses, however, is probably the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy – a $325.3 million impact in 2016 alone. CNBC likened it to a second Christmas for small businesses.

And that makes it a great time to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing small businesses and entrepreneurs. With the chaotic SXSW backdrop, Dell brought together seven members of the small business and entrepreneur community for a Dell Inside Circle Mini-Meetup on March 12.

Dell Inside Circle members at the Dell Experience at SXSW 2017
Dell Inside Circle has fun! Left to right: Ben Hindman, Erik Day, Rakia Reynolds, Carolyn Rodz, Mikaila Ulmer, Ramon Ray, Elizabeth Gore

They were all appearing throughout the conferences and festivals at events and on panels in the Dell Experience. But this mini-meetup provided an intimate gathering of the minds for these influential and accomplished entrepreneurs to discuss upcoming initiatives, small business challenges, and of course— their love for all things Dell.

For many, it was a reunion – including myself and Ramon Ray, founder and publisher of Smart Hustle. I’ve been fortunate to interact with him at least 7-8 years (I lose count) in my various roles at Dell and always appreciate his insight into the life of our small business customers.

Erik Day, who leads North America Small Business for Dell, took the opportunity to brainstorm with Ray, on the topic of what is changing and what’s staying the same for small business technology.

The small business world, an often tight-knit community, showed up in full force in Austin during this year’s SXSW. Small business and entrepreneurship were front and center with pitch competitions running daily in different venues all over Austin.

At the Dell meetup, Mikaila Ulmer, the 12-year-old founder of Me and the Bees embraced Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell Elizbeth Gore, and Rakia Reynolds, founder of Skai Blue Media, like old friends. Ulmer also made a new friend in our Social Good Advocate Adrian Grenier, who was spotted by the media giving her a shout out on Facebook.

“My favorite [moment] was in one day at the Dell Experience lounge we had: entrepreneurs, youth, Congressman, celebrities, CEOs and veterans. Everything we stand behind in one moment,” said Gore.

Ben Hindman, co-founder and CEO of Splash and Reynolds, who have both appeared on the cover of Dell’s Small Business Magazine and in Dell Small Business TV spots, reunited for the first time since their video shoots.

Rakia Reynolds at the Dell Experience at SXSW 2017
Rakia Reynolds, face of Dell for Small Business and Founder of Skai Blue Media, tries out a product display at SXSW on March 12, 2017

Carolyn Rodz, founder of Circular Board and the newest member among the Dell Inside Circle group, had recently – along with long-time pal, Gore – invited the group to her company’s conference, Circular Summit, taking place March 30-31, 2017 at Hotel ZaZa in Houston, Texas.

“My favorite moment of SXSW was all of the virtual reality experiences and activations,” said Rodz. “It is amazing how far that technology has evolved!”

And keeping up with that sort of technological disruption is important for small businesses. It’s also the topic of the latest Dell Technologies podcast on “Developing Distruption.” It’s just one innovative new way that we’re helping our small businesses and entrepreneur customers keep up with the trends that will impact their business.

I encourage you to take a listen!

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.