The Top COVID Recovery Issues Small Businesses Are Sharing
At ISD, we connect with small businesses and community organizations in a variety of ways, including direct interviews, webinars, and our Help Desk. Here is a snapshot of some of the issues that small businesses have been sharing lately.
#1: Digital Migration
Small retailers report that although they have been able to re-open their store fronts, foot traffic isn’t what it used to be. People like Michelle Burton, the proprietor of Msquared Beauty Supply, have had to learn a whole range of new online skills, which Together for LA founding member LISC-LA has been helping to develop.
Michelle Burton, Msquared Beauty Supply, with Deb Membreno, LISC-LA
Burton used to count on in-store promotions, but after COVID, she has become increasingly reliant on online sales. The good news is that she has been attracting customers from as far away as New Orleans and Philadelphia. Digital migration is a huge issue for helping small businesses remain in business, particularly in vulnerable and low-income neighborhoods that they are committed to supporting.
Small business owners are beset with worries: Where will the customers come from? How do I move this inventory? What do I do about rent? How do I pay back older debt? Mental health sometimes gets short-shrift when it comes to thinking about community economic recovery, but it is a vital component of resilience. Click here for guidance on how small business owners can take care of their mental health.
#3: Navigating Public Health Messaging and Requirements
Over the last eighteen months, the messaging around COVID-19 has been anything but consistent. As one business owner told me, “What would be really nice is not just a cheat sheet of what public health measures we need to take for customers and employees, but how to implement them easily.” Basic things like finding wholesale outlets for masks and cleaning supplies, how to handle changing vaccine requirements, and how to handle health-related disruptions easier and better would be very helpful. Health Action Alliance has resources for the business community here.
#4: Workforce and Skills Development
Adding to the stress for many small business owners is that they are over-stretched and can’t find help. “I guess what people have decided is that they don’t want the kind of jobs we have to offer at the wages we can afford to pay. I feel like I am caught in no-man’s land,” one small business owner told us. Several small business owners told us they feel stuck and burnt out. The “Great Resignation” is having ripple effects at the most local levels of the economy.
#5: English as a Second Language
56% of Los Angeles residents speak a language other than English at home. There are significant ESL populations in many major cities throughout the United States. Many small business assistance programs may have Spanish translations, but even these translations may be confusing or inadequate. This is why Korean, Chinese, Armenian, Polish, Hmong, Somali, Arabic and similar ethnic community groups can play an important role by mediating these resources and providing counseling about how to access them.
Other small businesses that have accessed ISD’s small business help desk have asked for assistance with issues like navigating grant and loan applications, complying with municipal regulations, coping with supply chain problems, and dealing with rejected applications.
Many government, business, and community leaders want to help the small business base – particularly for women- and minority-owned businesses and businesses operating in vulnerable and low-income neighborhoods. This is why technical assistance programs like Together for LA and other programs sponsored by the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund across the U.S. play such an important role in helping small businesses identify the resources that are available to help them navigate the many issues that they face.