The future is bright for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Anne Arundel County and the entire mid-Atlantic region.

For existing businesses to continue to grow and stay relevant, they will need to consider how to connect with customers and how they get paid. Gen-Zers love Snapchat and Instagram, for instance, so part of upcoming marketing strategies may soon need to include Instagram “stories” and use of a few influencers on social media.

An influencer is a social media user who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience that can be persuaded because of the influencer’s authenticity and reach — think a fitness Instagrammer talking about how great a certain brand of shoes is or a chef live on Facebook, chatting up his favorite brand of chocolate.

Whatever entrepreneurs choose to do online, it will have to be mobile friendly. Invest in creating a few apps to keep your customers engaged before, during and after the sale.

Speaking of the sale — payment methods like Apple Pay, Android Pay, Masterpass, Visa Checkpoint, PayPal and Venmo are all here to stay. However, remain skeptical about cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, gaining traction. If you are looking to raise funds for your business interest, rates for traditional lending are likely to increase, and crowdfunding will remain an option for many startups.

In the region, recently passed Maryland laws will bring growth to the local economy. Lawyers, accountants, packaging companies, transportation providers, security professionals, commercial real estate brokers and product safety consultants will all see a boost in business.

The medical cannabis industry, in its infancy, will create opportunities along the entire supply chain, from budtenders to product designers for extracts, oils, edibles and more. To quote AACC Professor Shad Ewart, who teaches a class exploring business opportunities around the country’s expanding marijuana market, “The people that made the money in the gold rush were not the guys with the nuggets. … [They were] the people who sold them the picks, the shovels, made the blue jeans and opened the banks.”

The Reform on Tap Act of 2018 will brew up new opportunities for the craft brewing business. Finally, we will continue to see the “maker movement” grow, as more spaces become available for people to bring their ideas to life. Local spots include the Annapolis Makerspace; The Foundry, in Baltimore; and Unallocated Space, in Severn. These spaces provide the necessary tools, technology and platforms for rapid product design, prototyping and fabrication. It is hands on, engaging, creative, fun and functional.

Tips for your business for the new year are as follows.

• Create a signature, unique customer experience;

• Pick one new social media strategy to implement; and

• Identify a new opportunity that you can tap into for your business. Consider how you can serve or partner with one new or emerging industry mentioned herein.

Experiment, learn from failures, celebrate success, make the world around you a better place — and most of all, have fun.

Carlene Cassidy is a professor and chair of the Entrepreneurial Studies Institute at Anne Arundel Community College. She can be contacted at 410-777-2161 and [email protected], and via