SmartBiz CEO Talks National Small Business Week

This year’s National Small Business Week is unlike any the United States has experienced. Originally slated for May 3 - May 9, Small Business Week was postponed because of the pandemic and the SBA is now launching it from September 22 – September 24 with a focus on “recovery, adaptation, and innovation”.

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One issue crucial to stabilize small businesses is continued access to low-cost capital. Business operations interruption, employee retention, and dropping revenue has dramatically altered the small business lending landscape over the past 6 months. There are currently 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S., accounting for 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses.

A Goldman Sachs Small Businesses survey, conducted from April to September 2020 reported that only 65 percent of owners believe their business will survive, the lowest percentage recorded in the survey thus far.*

It has been imperative to support the surviving businesses with low-cost funding like Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. We’re actively monitoring the next round of PPP funding as it’s debated in Congress. The SBA, our nation’s banks, and many fintech providers did a terrific job helping millions of businesses in the first PPP round; however, a PPP second draw and simplified PPP forgiveness process is needed so businesses can continue to be helped.

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As the CEO of SmartBiz Loans, our team is on the front lines daily helping entrepreneurs apply for the right financing at the right time, including PPP and traditional SBA 7(a) loans. In June, we also launched a grant program to support minority businesses in San Francisco and Austin, where SmartBiz offices are located. We were greatly inspired by the entries we received showing the resilience and drive minority entrepreneurs use to establish a successful business.

The business owners chosen to receive a grant are using creative solutions to rebuild. For example, Brandi Lanee’ Events in San Francisco has pivoted her business into a distance service and has been able to add staff and keep revenue coming in. Elijah Collins, founder of Zeallous in San Francisco, helps establish musicians and bands in the Bay Area. He’s rethought business management to remain active in the suffering music scene. Darold Gordon, owner of The Original New Orleans Po-Boy and Gumbo Shop, LLC in Austin, received one of the grants to help him continue serving patrons safely. Another grant awardee, Luv Fats Ice Cream in Austin is owned by Chi Ndika. She sells throughout the city at Farmer’s Markets and will use the funds to help production.

Consumers need to do their part as small businesses evolve to combat the economic slow-down while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks to keep everyone safe. There are many ways to support small businesses during this time including buying from small businesses in the community and online, writing positive reviews, and sharing shopping experiences with friends, family, and community.

Another key to rebuilding is for business owners to adapt to a post-pandemic environment. In addition to increased safety measures, programs will be needed to nurture customers’ and employees’ mental health while continuing to drive growth. New leadership tactics and operation strategies will be critical to rise above the economic downturn. Business owners who adjust well will set up their businesses for future stability.

The good news is that the U.S. has the tools in place needed to support a strong future economy. As we’ve shown through history, the resilience of entrepreneurs in the United States coupled with support from the government and consumers can help small businesses thrive once again.

* Survey from Goldman Sachs provided exclusively to Axios

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