Entrepreneurs have likely heard this word over and over this month, but what does it mean for you?
Founder, inkWELL Press Productivity Co.
If you’re in the entrepreneurial world, you’ve like heard one word more than almost any other this month: pivot. “Pivot your offerings,” or “pivot your business." But what in the world does that actually look like?
The truth is, we should be constantly pivoting or shifting in our businesses. It doesn’t take a global health crisis to land on that realization. Crises like the one we’re experiencing today just make the need to pivot more apparent. I’ve been getting a lot of emails from the women business owners in my community asking, “What does pivoting look like for me and my business?”
Related: 5 Ways to Pivot Your Business During a Crisis
Many are deciding their way of pivoting is to offer gift cards, but the thing is, if everyone offers gift cards, it’s not going to help you stand out in the marketplace. So, I decided to collect some “pivot-spirations” — both ideas I’ve come up with myself and ideas I’ve drawn from other businesses I follow and mentor. I thought this would be helpful to share in case you can apply one of these ideas to your business. I know I already have done so with my own.
Make your product into a DIY quarantine activity
We’ve heard about businesses doing curbside pickups and offering to-go orders, but my favorite local burger joint in Asheville, N.C. is taking it a step further. Instead of offering burgers to go, Farm Burger is offering “take home kits.” That is, all the ingredients you need to cook your burgers at home as a family — burgers, buns, fixings, sides and even a milkshake kit to make some dessert. This got me thinking: If you’re offering something that’s ready to go or already assembled, is there anything you can offer that gives people an activity to do at home? Think about it: We are all looking for quarantine activities. We’re stuck in our houses or apartments doing the same thing every day. Can you break down what you offer in a way that allows your customers to do it themselves?
Create an exclusive club membership
There's no doubt that retail stores are hard hit. Something creative I saw recently from a clothing company, Evereve, was an exclusive membership option: If you order $100 or more worth of products while the store is closed, you’ll be automatically enrolled in its exclusive club, whose members get a 10 percent discount for the rest of 2020. This option is different than offering a basic gift card and encourages customer loyalty. If the customer decides to buy now, they’ll get a long-term reward. It also helps business owners because customers are more likely to buy now and then keep coming back to enjoy that 10 percent off perk.
Offer crafting kits
I’ve seen businesses that sell cards, stationery, or art prints taking the supplies they already have on hand and making them into other types of kits. Mainly, any type of kit that is going to offer joy or calm during this troublesome time. How can you take the materials you already have on hand and shift it to appeal to people with what’s going on today? With lockdown orders still in place in many states, people are not going out to stores to buy supplies for projects or activities. If you look at the materials you have with a fresh perspective, you could create an all-in-one craft kit that so many people are looking for right now.
Add an element of surprise to your shipments
Something my business is currently doing is including a “random act of kindness” in every inkWELL Press planner we send out. These surprise extras are products that we know our customers love and will get excited about. Not only does it brighten people’s days — which is much needed right now — but it also gives customers an incentive to order right now. Plus, once again you’re instilling that sense of customer loyalty.
Whatever you decide your pivot is going to look like, make sure it aligns with your mission, vision and core values. Remember that hard times like these present an opportunity for your business to transform an everyday customer into a raving fan. The key is to make them feel like you’re doing a little bit extra to help them right now.
Related: 5 Steps to Help Your Business Emerge Stronger From the Health Crisis
We often think that returning customers and loyal customers are the same thing. However, returning customers are those that come back year after year for your offerings, whereas loyal customers are the ones that come back to you again and again no matter the competition, price, changes made, etc. These are the customers who are actively seeking you out. Reaching out to your customers now — even if it looks a little different than normal — is what will make them loyal customers ready to return when things get back to normal.
The truth is, making shifts and changes to your business because of this crisis may actually have long-reaching positive effects. Emily Countryman, CEO of Ideal Wellness, moved her in-person coaching program completely online in response to the crisis. Rather than a negative, she sees the move as a way to reach more people. In thinking about the shift, she says, “We are coming out of this different, but stronger. I can see what our new business model looks like, and I am energized by the opportunities. We can now help and serve the whole country, not just western Washington.”
These next few weeks I encourage you to try and look at your business from an entirely new lens and feel okay embracing some aggressive imperfection as you make the changes. Pivoting does not need to be scary or hard. Just ask yourself, how can I take what I offer and shift it just a tiny bit?
Related: 3 Ways to Sell Your Services Virtually Right Now With No Upfront Costs
Related: How to get 100% Free Advertising on over 1500 websites and Apps and Pay Only For Sales and reward Customers at the same time.
Read more from Entrepreneur
'Liar': De Blasio is blasted for making the 'outrageous' claim that small businesses are prepared to 'hang on for a few more months' as store owners beg to reopen before they lose everything
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been blasted as a 'liar' for claiming that struggling small businesses are 'hanging on' and are prepared to stay closed for 'months' yet as he continues to cling on to the city's lockdown despite mounting calls to reopen.
New York City saw just 63 hospitalizations for suspected COVID-19 cases on Monday, less than a tenth of the number on March 20 when the city went into lockdown, but still de Blasio and Cuomo refuse to say when the city will reopen again.
In an interview with WNYC radio on Friday, de Blasio claimed: 'I’ve talked to lots and lots of business leaders, especially the smallest businesses.
'They’re very worried about their futures understandably, but they also are hanging on and they know it can be a matter of months until they’ll be back in action.'
The remark has been met with outrage by small business owners who say they are barely still surviving.
Some called his remark 'outrageous' and particularly offensive from someone who owns two homes in Park Slope, an expensive neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Hundreds of businesses have joined together to form a coalition to reopen the city.
Some have taken it into their own hands to reopen because they simply cannot afford to stay closed any longer, and they have received summonses from the NYPD.
Many are now asking why mega retailers like Costco and Walmart have been allowed to stay open throughout the pandemic while smaller stores that are able to enforce social distancing practices more seamlessly have been forced shut.
Bruce Backman, spokesman for Reopen New York, the coalition, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday: 'I think it's a power grab... you have to wonder, how much lobbying are the big box stores doing to keep themselves the only ones in business?
'When have we ever forced people to go to three stores to buy everything? It's like the Soviet Union.'
Others demanded to know which businesses de Blasio had spoken to that said they were surviving.
'This is not the conversation I've had with moms and pops,' Julia Marsh tweeted in response to the mayor's comments.
Another blasted de Blasio as a 'liar', while Senator Simcha Felder, the Democratic State Senator for New York's 17th District, said: 'Small business owners are bleeding and dying.
'I have yet to hear the Mayor's explanation. Small businesses cannot last another day let alone 6 months.
'Maybe if I was renting out 2 Park Slope homes I'd understand.
He is still collecting rent from his tenants, saying they were employed and able to pay their rent.
'Out of all the things that have come out of his mouth, this is the most outrageous.
'He lives in a de Blasio land. That is the furthest thing from the truth. He is not in touch with reality and all he has to do is walk down a commercial corridor to understand what is happening to our small businesses.
'He is setting up the city for failure. He’s going to leave City Hall in the worse condition that this city has experienced since World War II and the Great Depression,' councilman Mark Gjonaj told The New York Post.
De Blasio and Cuomo refuse to address why New York City cannot reopen yet despite mounting losses in the commercial sector.
Major landlords collected just 20 percent of their normal income in April and May, and leaders in the hospitality industry say they predict job losses of up to 68 percent.
'For leisure and hospitality, including restaurants and hotels, the downturn equates to a virtual apocalypse — a job loss of 68 percent.
Staten Island restaurateurs Max Calicchio and Alison Marchese (left) and an employee from Aunt Butchie's (right). They are all begging the local government to let them start making money again
'There’s a great concern that many of these jobs are lost. The slow reopening is not going to help the restaurant sector,' E.J. McMahon of The Empire Center added.
The number of new hospitalizations and deaths every day has lowered consistently for weeks.
There were 73 deaths on Monday across the entire state of New York and every other region has been told it can reopen this week.
Mid-Hudson reopens today and Long Island will reopen tomorrow.
New York City, according to the officials, still does not have enough contact tracers or hospital beds to reopen.
There is mounting pressure to reopen New York City from small businesses
Another 800 contact tracers and 420 hospital beds are needed before the city can reopen, by the officials' standards.
'The mayor’s policies are crushing our businesses, but even worse they are destroying New York.
'We the small business owners and worker, who are the lifeblood of the city’s economy and its dreams for the future are pleading with him to trust us to open our businesses safely, before it is too late.
'These policies are counterproductive, cruel and they are indiscriminately targeting our working and middle classes.
'They are exacerbating the gap between rich and poor,' Backman, of Reopen NY, a coalition of 300 small businesses, told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
His comments have been echoed by others in Staten Island - which has the lowest numbers of anywhere in the city but is still closed - and other elected officials.
The digital billboards in New York City’s famous Times Square will go dark tonight at 9 pm ET for one minute to dramatize the plight of restaurants, non-profits and retailers across the country that are suffering business losses due to the pandemic and shutdowns.
Organizers say they want to alert the nation to the “very real prospect that hundreds of thousands of American restaurants, non-profits and retailers – employing millions – are in danger of going dark” because they say neither insurance nor existing federal assistance programs are helping as they should.
Among the coordinators of the publicity event is the Business Interruption Group (BIG), a coalition of restaurants and other businesses co-founded by Louisiana attorney John Houghtaling that is pushing for the insurance industry to pay business income losses of struggling businesses. Houghtaling also represents several clients suing insurers over business interruption.
“Business interruption insurance claims are being wrongfully denied. That is crippling the essential hospitality businesses that drive tourism and are woven into the fabric of our cities. The loss of revenue without the opportunity to recover lost funds robs business owners of the capital necessary to re-open,” said Houghtaling.
BIG has been pressing for insurers to pay business interruption claims on policies that do not contain a virus exclusion and then be reimbursed through a federal fund.
Insurers have balked at paying many of these claims, arguing that the coronavirus does not cause physical damage that is required to trigger business interruption coverage and that most policies also exclude viruses. The industry says it can’t afford to cover the losses its policies were not written or priced to cover and still meet its obligations to other policyholders.
Many in the insurance industry support a federal program that would allow businesses to buy revenue replacement coverage for up to 80 percent of payroll and other expenses. This plan, Business Continuity Protection Program, would be run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Others behind tonight’s publicity event are billboard companies, the Times Square Alliance of businesses and the New York City Hospitality Alliance.
The Times Square billboards blackout is to be followed by a video urging the insurance industry to honor business interruption claims and support legislation. The video features opinions from Whoopi Goldberg, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the global Jewish human rights group Simon Wiesenthal Center, Chef Eric Ripert of restaurant Le Bernardin, Broadway actress and singer Liz Dutton and others calling on insurance companies to “do the right thing.”
Read more from Insurance Journal
In times of uncertainty, even entrepreneurs have a hard time knowing what they, or their teams, should do next.
Co-founder of Hostt
In times of great uncertainty, great leaders need to step up to the plate. But the best leaders aren’t just defined by their titles or accomplishments; they’re defined by a constant need for growth. New perspectives and techniques are key for solving difficult problems on the job, and the right book can go a long way toward broadening those horizons.
Those hoping to shepherd their companies through challenging circumstances need the right tools to help them do so, and these eight reads are great resources to start with.
1. Beyond Wins: Eastern Mindset for Success in Daily Business Negotiations by Mala SubramaniamFar too often, negotiation is treated like a win-lose scenario in business, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. Beyond Wins takes wisdom innate to Hinduism and Buddhism and places it in a commercial context. Mala Subramaniam shows how a bit of novel wisdom can go a long way toward making negotiation a successful process for everyone involved.
Related: 6 Steps to Negotiate Properly and Achieve Better Outcome
2. Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best...and Learn from the Worst by Robert I. SuttonAlready a modern classic among management guides, Good Boss, Bad Boss is a must-read for any leader looking to critically evaluate his or her practices in the workplace. The book itself is based on Sutton’s extensive conversations with business leaders and the wisdom he learned. These anecdotes form a powerful look into how leaders evolve and how they grow.
3. Syndicating Is a B*tch: And Other Truths You Haven't Been Told by Bruce PetersenFinding dead bodies on your property, getting your assets seized by Homeland Security ... the stories found in Syndicating Is a B*tch may not seem relevant for every type of business leader, but Bruce Petersen’s deep dive into real estate’s hottest trend reveals some remarkable truths about how to weather difficult storms in business and when to jump ship.
4. Income for Life: The Retiree's Guide to Creating Income From Savings by S. Joseph DiSalvo & Marie L. MadaraszNo leader can lead if she’s worried about her own future; thankfully, S. Joseph DiSalvo and Marie L. Madarasz have consolidated their 40 combined years of wealth-management experience into a readable guide. Income for Life allows anyone to grasp the nuances of preparing for retirement, letting you spend more time and energy on the present.
5. Fulfilled: The Passion & Provision Strategy for Building a Business with Profit, Purpose & Legacy by Kathryn & Michael K. RedmanFulfilled is just what it sounds like: a how-to for ensuring that you’re running your business the way you want to. Kathryn and Michael K. Redman have stripped things down to the bare essentials of meaningful leadership, meaning you’ll get a clear look at what you’re doing well and what you could be doing differently.
6. The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Beating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelly with Jonathan LittmanThe Ten Faces of Innovation should be the first resource that comes to any business leader’s mind when looking for a way to develop. Tom Kelly and Jonathan Littman’s book outlines the varying roles that key employees can play, roles that, employed correctly, can take your leadership to the next level.
7. Get It: Five Steps to the Sex, Salary and Success You Want by AmyK Hutchens Every great leader knows that leadership isn’t just found in the office: It’s at home, it’s with your friends and it’s everywhere in between. AmyK Hutchens is a leader’s leader, and Get It is her manifesto for taking control. By outlining how leaders can get a grip on all of the key aspects of their lives, Get It establishes a leadership mindset few can afford to pass up.
8. The Acorn Method: How Companies Get Growing Again by Henrik WerdelinHenrik Werdelin’s new release may sound strange from a brief description — what could Fortune 500 companies possibly learn from oak trees? — but the insights found within are too valuable to scoff at. The Acorn Method is a brilliant look at how big companies can promote growth in new and exciting ways and the crucial role that forward-thinking leaders play in that process.
Related: 8 Mindset Shifts Entrepreneurs Must Make to Achieve Their Ultimate Goal
For business leaders, learning is more crucial than ever. Each chapter you read is a new way of looking at the problems facing your business, and every dollar spent on a book is a dollar you’re investing in your company’s future.
Read more from Entrepreneur
Is your business ready for the five largest macro-trends we are about to see?
Brendan M. Egan
Founder & CEO of Simple SEO Group
Social distancing. Telemedicine. Self-quarantine. These are all words that at the start of 2020 weren't part of our vocabulary, but several months into the new decade we are all hearing and using them daily. There is no denying that the coronavirus outbreak has dramatically changed just about every facet of just about every person’s life around the world.
From a business perspective, the stock market saw its largest one day loss and largest one day gain in history. The U.S. saw the largest job-loss report ever. We are in uncharted waters, and how long we will remain in them remains uncertain. However, there is one thing that we all know, and that is that this outbreak will change the lives of everyone for years or decades to come. Nearly 20 years after 9/11, enhanced airport security, no-fly lists and counterterrorism efforts are still the norm. The same will be true of the COVID-19 aftermath. Is your business ready for the five largest macro trends we are about to see?
Related: 8 Tips to Coronavirus-Proof Your Business ASAP
1. The rise of enhanced websites and digital tools
Many nonessential businesses — including things like retail stores, hair salons, warehouses, factories and offices — had their brick-and-mortar locations offices closed and did not have the technical tools to survive with their physical locations shut down.
Our agency has seen a tremendous increase in businesses reaching out to us ready to make the leap into digital. It's critical for businesses to be able to not just survive but thrive through enhanced websites and digital tools to serve their customers. Things like e-commerce in industries that never utilized e-commerce before, advanced product configurations, chatbots and mobile applications are in greater demand than ever as small- and medium-size businesses join in the new decade's technology revolution.
These new tools are helping businesses stay afloat during the virus outbreak and will be a macro-trend that becomes even more important as social distancing becomes commonplace practice — not just for this outbreak but for potential future outbreaks as well.
2. Cybersecurity concerns take center stage
Cybersecurity is already an important topic to large businesses, and with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, California's Consumer Privacy Act and other privacy laws, as well as countless news stories about the cost and impact of data breaches, it is something smaller businesses are being forced to confront head on. With the surge in employees working remotely during the virus outbreak, we have seen more and more data breaches and cyberattacks.
Employees using unsecured infrastructure and third-party tools are two of the leading causes of potential breaches. Combine this with data storage and access practices that violate privacy laws — for example, telemedicine on non-HIPAA-compliant platforms — and suddenly the need for secure solutions takes center stage.
Additionally, during this vulnerable time, we have seen an increase in overseas cyberattacks on many of our clients' websites. Things like brute force attacks, denial of service attacks and other types of attempted hacks have increased, and the need for keeping website and web servers updated and secure is of utmost importance. More businesses will be forced to invest in technology that is secure, scalable, accessibly remotely and follows the onslaught of new data privacy and security regulations.
Related: The Coronavirus Pandemic Versus the Digital Economy: The Pitfalls and the Opportunities
3. An increase in virtual meetings
The tremendous increase in virtual meetings is a trend we predict will be here to stay. Though there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting and handshake, for the next few years we anticipate the trend of virtual meetings to continue. And this won't just apply to the traditional business world, it will apply to many other aspects of our lives — for example, virtually meeting with your doctor, therapist, banker and even hair stylist for a consultation. This will be a tremendous cost and time savings to all parties involved. This is a trend that already started prior to the virus outbreak and will only become more amplified as we continue in this new decade. Preparing for this trend goes far beyond having a virtual meeting space and software. Things like digital brochures, digital business cards, tutorial videos and enhanced website information will all follow in this trend and become necessities as businesses find it more difficult to physically hand materials to their customers.
4. Increased control in expenses
With the unprecedented business shutdown across America, businesses will be increasingly looking at ways to have a greater degree of control over their expenses. These will include businesses requesting shorter contract durations, emergency clauses and provisions in agreements, ways to have a more easily scalable workforce utilizing temporary workers and temporary agencies, and an overall desire to lower expenses, especially recurring expenses.
We have witnessed firsthand nearly every client of ours express the need to reduce expenses, not just as a result of the virus but also as a practice they want to continue into the near future. While this is a good business practice regardless, the pain felt during this economic downturn will create scars that will likely last years into the future.
Make sure your business has answers when your customers ask for ways they can be saving, reducing contract terms or protecting their business from future disasters and catastrophes.
Related: How to Make Every Marketing Dollar Count During a Crisis
5. Even more remote employees
Lastly, with the previous four trends is going to come the fifth — an even larger shift to remote employees. Many businesses that fought the trend of employees working remote are now realizing that in being forced to shut down their offices, remote employees are still efficient, effective, economical, and something millennials and Generation Z demand.
With more remote employees comes the increased need for all of the first four points mentioned. This trend is something that started over a decade ago, but it will continue to be amplified in this new decade and following the COVID-19 outbreak.
These trends will be relevant not just in 2020, but likely well beyond. Making decisions and positioning your company now for these changes in the business world will make sure your business is ready and at the forefront of the new remote, digital technology revolution.
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Rafael Sweary, President and Co-Founder of WalkMe, the leading Digital Adoption Platform is also a mentor and investor in many startups.
"Business as usual" for employees is impossible in times of unprecedented disruption. Even after intensive planning that goes into an organization's business continuity plan, when push comes to shove, the reality of achieving business continuity in times of crisis will always bring about unexpected issues that need solving.
Employees are some of the biggest influencers on whether an organization can achieve business continuity, but they can also be the hardest to support. Most humans are creatures of habit, even at work. Transitioning a global workforce outside of the regular work environment can create stress on essential processes within an organization, from onboarding to using different software. If employees experience widespread burnout, miscommunication, an inability to keep up with customer requests and an inability to be as productive as they are in the office, business will be brought to a standstill.
Organizations need to take a step back, look at the human aspect of business continuity and their employees, and see how to best support them in times of disruption. Many employees require three areas of support in order to be their most productive, efficient selves in times of crisis: increased communication, enhanced accessibility and expanded self-service opportunities.
The Power Of Self-Sufficiency
Telecommuters need to be fully prepared to work from home with all the proper resources and on-hand support. A remote worker is trying to share files remotely but doesn't remember how to do it. There isn't anyone nearby they can ask, nor can they find the proper documentation to figure it out. What many telecommuters need to be successful is the ability to be self-sufficient in every aspect of their work, including in complex business processes.
Self-sufficiency at scale, therefore, needs to be both reactive and proactive. Remote employees, especially in times of unusual disruption, require reactive and proactive guidance and engagement to enable self-service support at the moment of need. In the long run, this not only helps the employees themselves, but it also deflects support volume and dependency on high-value resources like IT.
Female entrepreneurs find the winning strategy, thanks to adidas and iFundWomen
In January, adidas and iFundWomen brought together a select group of female sports entrepreneurs from around the world for a weekend that combined business mentorship and inspiration from sports luminaries. While the women in attendance focus on different athletic activities, they are united by a vision of the business of sports that is diverse and inclusive. Guest speakers, including Billie Jean King and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, emphasized the importance of creating systemic change and the power of perseverance in both sports and entrepreneurship. Here, the founders explain their business vision, the impact this new partnership will have on the future of sports business, and the key lessons they took away from the workshop. You’ll also find links to the respective crowdfunding pages that iFundWomen established for each founder’s business.
NORTH AMERICA BRITTANY EDWARDS & KHIANNA LOWE* COFOUNDERS, INCORP[HER]ATED (NEW YORK CITY)
The business: Incorp[HER]ated is a diversity-inclusion agency focusing on sneakers, sport, music, and fashion that bridges the gap between communities and creative industries.
Impact of the initiative: It shows a huge sports brand taking the stance not just of, “We support women and diversity, and inclusion is important,” but also committing to creating change. This partnership showcases that it’s not just an issue that’s being spoken about, but that there’s action behind it.
Goal for the workshop [Edwards]: I want to take all of these words I wrote down on a piece of paper and create a pitch and a story around what Incorp[HER]ated does and what we’re trying to build.
Key takeaway [Edwards]: To see that [Billie Jean King and Jackie Joyner-Kersee] are still so committed to social action and sport is really inspirational. They were accomplished athletes, and then they took that passion and built something beautiful. They’re inspiring us to continue that work because we’re the next generation. It was like the baton being passed, in a way.
To fund this business: Click here.
*Lowe was unable to attend the workshop.
HÉLÈNE GUILLAUME FOUNDER, WILD.AI (SAN FRANCISCO)
The business: WILD.AI is an app for female athletes that helps them train, fuel, and recover based on their menstrual cycle.
Impact of the initiative: To get our message out in partnership with adidas and iFundWomen shows that people recognize that we are doing something important and commercially viable. They are allowing us to leverage the incredible brands they’ve built over many years to start something new.
Goal for the workshop: I want to hear the experience of professional athletes to learn how we can apply their lessons to entrepreneurship.
Key takeaway: How to be resilient. You have a lot of failures when you’re an athlete; it’s the same for entrepreneurs. You have to be grateful for these failures and learn from them as well.
To fund this business: Click here.
MARISA HAMAMOTO FOUNDER, CEO, AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR; INFINITE FLOW—AN INCLUSIVE DANCE COMPANY (SHERMAN OAKS, CA)
The business: Infinite Flow is a nonprofit and professional dance company composed of dancers with and without disabilities that uses dance to inspire inclusion and innovation.
Impact of the initiative: There are many passionate dancers, movers, and athletes out there…with great ideas, but unless you have a plan and guidance, that idea [remains] an idea. This partnership between adidas and iFundWomen is a perfect marriage. They are taking people like myself, who are passionate about movement, and giving us the tools to build a business that transforms the world.
Goal for the workshop: I want to learn about growing a personal brand and how that will support my company.
Key takeaway: Billie [Jean King] said something like, “Creating change became more important than winning.” That’s become the theme of my own career. It’s not about me anymore. It’s really about creating systemic change and creating a world where inclusion, diversity, and equal opportunity don’t have to be discussed anymore, because it’s already a given.”
To fund this business: Click here.
SUSAN SULLIVAN FOUNDER, WOMEN SPORTS FILM FESTIVAL (SAN FRANCISCO)
ALEX TAYLOR FOUNDER, HOOP YORK CITY (NEW YORK CITY)
The business: Hoop York City provides safe spaces for women to play basketball, while creating opportunities to network and feel celebrated.
Impact of the initiative: It’s empowering to have all of the tools to be able to succeed and move things forward. As a female entrepreneur, I think that there needs to be more opportunities like that, and I feel very lucky to even be a part of this small team of people. I hope one day I can pay it forward by organizing something on a smaller scale.
Goal for the workshop: I don’t have a cofounder, so I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of friends and family. And as much as I love them, not all of them are qualified to answer those questions.
Key takeaway: I learned to be really clear and concise in delivering what it means to be a part of Hoop York City, who we are, and what we stand for. My mentor was the founder and CEO of iFundWomen, so I couldn’t have asked for more. She was really straightforward, direct, and tough. I learn well when people just take out the fluff.
To fund this business: Click here.
GLOBAL KELLY BESSIS FOUNDER, DADA CLUB (PARIS)
The business: Dada Club is a boxing and fitness group for women that promotes wellness by providing the space for sports and access to a sports community.
Impact of the initiative: The support of female entrepreneurship from these two amazing businesses was truly inspirational. I loved being able to work together with other women from around the world. As we say in French, “unity is strength!”
Goal for the workshop: While I was very much looking forward to meeting the adidas and iFundWomen teams, I had no idea the workshop would be so rewarding and inspiring. I was surprised to see how hands-on and tactical the work was, and how much support adidas and IFW are really offering.
Key takeaway: My overwhelming takeaway is a feeling of gratitude for this opportunity. The chance to meet so many incredible women and the patience shown by all was really touching.
To fund this business: Click here.
FRANCESCA BROWN CEO, MANAGING DIRECTOR; GOALS4GIRLS (LONDON)
MARIANA PAJÓN FOUNDER, PEDALEANDO POR UN SUEÑO (BOGOTÁ, COLUMBIA)
The business: Pedaleando por un Sueño (Pedaling for a Dream)/Fundación Mariana Pajón is an initiative that creates opportunities for children in need and teaches them the process for helping to make those dreams come true.
Impact of the initiative: I was very curious to see what was possible when large companies get involved in purpose-driven work. Now, I’m amazed at the impact they can have, and I want to be a part of these opportunities in the future.
Goal for the workshop: The most important thing is to get more and more people to believe that we can change their reality through sports.
Key takeaway: Women are already hard at work changing their own realities for the better. If those women are given the opportunity to work together, they can absolutely change the world.
To fund this business: Click here.
JASMINA SRNA FOUNDER, GIRLS INC. (BERLIN)
The business: Girls Inc., an initiative of Safe-Hub, is breaking down barriers by empowering young women to become role models in their communities and realize their full potential. The fusion of sports, personal development, education, and employability is at the heart of the coaching program.
Impact of the initiative: To me, it was great to see that adidas uses its influence to initiate projects like these. I also found it very powerful that they worked with iFundWomen, a platform that is not necessarily associated with sports. Empowering women in complex structures is a challenge, and we can only overcome these obstacles by collaborating and supporting each other.
Goal for the workshop: I was looking forward to meeting strong women from different backgrounds who all share the idea that we, as female entrepreneurs, can empower women through sports. Additionally, I was hoping to learn how we can use our networks to raise funds for our projects so that we can turn our visions into reality.
Key takeaway: The best lesson for me was how to set up a crowdfunding campaign, which is new to me. So learning from experts in this field was really interesting. Also, it’s amazing to see how many bright minds are tackling the same issues!
To fund this business: Click here.
If you‘re a woman with an industry-changing idea, you too can receive financial support and expert business coaching from adidas and iFundWomen. To find out more about the program and apply, visit www.ifundwomen.com/adidas. Deadline is March 31.
Why It Matters All companies can learn from what these three MIT Sloan startups discovered early on — analytics matter. Here are some of their top lessons and tips.
by Kara Baskin
When Kinsa-founder Inder Singh, MBA ’06, HST '07, had an idea for a smart thermometer, he envisioned a device that could not only take temperatures but also enable users to monitor symptoms and medications, as well as keep records for their caregivers.
But here’s what really sets Kinsa apart: The San Francisco health technology company uses aggregated, anonymous data from its FDA-approved smart devices to track fevers and map where illness outbreaks are occurring in real time.
As Kinsa and myriad other startups know, the crucial component is data and analytics.
Startups find success when they possess information unique to their industry and apply analytics to interpret and deploy that data in strategic ways. Think of analytics as a key to an undiscovered kingdom: Wielded properly, it can unlock new worlds.
Consider these MIT Sloan-led startups that have analytics baked into their core business propositions:
Newton, Massachusetts-based Onduo focuses on Type 2 diabetes management, offering wearable glucose monitors to help customers monitor levels without a painful finger prick and delivering ongoing data to doctors and users. All member data is completely HIPAA-compliant; in the COVID-19 era, this kind of service — reducing the need for in-person doctor visits — is even more important.
Boston-based fintech Flywire streamlines international payments, partnering with schools, hospitals, and businesses to offer rates below those offered by many wire services and banks. Data from the billions of dollars in payments it processes allows Flywire to deliver value to its customers, maintain a competitive advantage, and achieve operational efficiencies over the long term.
And Kinsa can effectively predict where and when flu, colds, and now COVID-19 are spreading, connecting more than 1 million users with an AI-based medical triage system accessed through an app. Users can see which diseases are circulating in their area and plan accordingly. According to a recent New York Times story, Kinsa’s interactive maps have precisely predicted the spread of flu nationwide roughly two weeks before the CDC.
All businesses can learn from what these startups discovered at the outset — analytics matter. Here are some of their top lessons and tips:
Good data has a personal impact
Onduo’s product delivers immediate data and insights to customers: When they eat, they see how their glucose changes right away. “The learning is very obvious and very apparent,” said Gino Korolev, MBA ‘15, vice president of solution at Onduo, explaining that customers have instant incentives to modify behavior if they see a spike. “They learn they shouldn’t have sweetened cereal or that they should go for a walk after lunch,” he said, a lesson borne out by visible data instead of an abstract lesson.
Good data targets a niche market
Onduo spotted an untended niche, opting to target patients with Type 2 diabetes, also called adult-onset diabetes, rather than Type 1. “This was a novelty,” Korolev said, noting that the continuous glucose monitor industry typically focused on the “life or death” glucose level management of Type 1 diabetics. Now, Type 2 patients have access to a continuous glucose monitor that delivers constant data to doctors over an ongoing period, allowing doctors to precisely tailor medications for each patient.
Thrive, a San Francisco-based fintech, likewise identified an underserved market — graduating students in need of short-term cash as they launch their careers. Founded by Twitter alumni Deepak Rao and Siddharth Batra, who came to the U.S. as students and didn’t have access to traditional financial services, the firm’s ThriveCash offers underfunded students access to grants of up to $25,000 based on internship and job offer letters.
As the coronavirus crisis developed, the company was able to tap its data on offer letters and internships from hiring companies to quickly launch its Student Hiring Tracker, which tracks which offers are still being made and what programs are being canceled.
Data and analytics should be a top-level function
In 2019, Onduo hired a head of data analytics, who oversees five full-time employees. “About one year in, it was decided that data and analytics needed to be a separate function, a top-level function that will provide value to end users, our buyers, and the business,” said Korolev. “I think many different functions can act as analytics-capable functions — for example, engineering usually knows how to manage and query data. But it’s harder for an engineer to be in front of the clients, talking about how a program has certain efficacy for this client.”
The analytics team synthesizes data from clients and health plans, as well as runs projections, allowing Onduo to properly scale its business. The analytics team can evaluate past performance, develop projections for user growth, and give business guidance on onboarding new staff such as coaches and doctors.
Common objects make effective data-collection tools
Convenience increases adherence, which in turn begets more and better data. “Our thermometer is just a smarter, better version of something you already use. We piggybacked off of an existing behavior,” said Kinsa founder Singh. In this way, Kinsa didn’t have to convert users to a behavior to collect data — just enhance what was already there.
Impactful data solves a problem and spurs action
Kinsa distinguishes itself by aggregating data from customers and mapping it in real time, allowing sick (and possibly scared) users to get up-to-the-minute information to make decisions quickly: about whether to seek medical help, whether to go to the doctor, whether to stay inside.
“When we started Kinsa, the whole idea was: How do you get data on where and when symptoms are starting? How do you get data on how fast [something] is spreading? How do you get data on how severe it's going to get, and how do you get data from within hours of symptom onset — not days like the health care system gets,” Singh said. The immediacy is a differentiator for customers.
Strategically, Kinsa knew that simply providing data to users about where outbreaks were occurring wasn’t enough. They also needed to tell users what to do with that information, which happens via the app. “What we’ve built isn’t just a connected thermometer; it’s a connected medical guidance system,” Singh said.
Two minutes after users take a temperature, they receive a push notification asking for more information about symptoms; with each tap, questions become more specific, offering symptom-based guidance about what’s going on in the community and what to do next.
“This is the foundation of why we started the company. It’s to get better data, to analyze that data, so we can solve a problem,” Singh said.
Data should be shared widely across teams
Flywire’s analytics team relies on big-data analytics platform Looker, a company that was recently bought by Google, to share customized information across teams every day. Information isn’t siloed.
“Everybody in the company can access and check business performance and any of the metrics that they're tracking. So, in a traditional company where you would need an analytics person to create a report and present it every month, our business stakeholders create it themselves with support from analytics team,” said Mohit Kansal, MBA ’14, vice president of global payments.
“Anyone in the company can easily go and click to access these reports. It’s proved to be super useful at the company across all levels, not just senior leadership,” Kansal said. “In current times, where sudden business changes are very common across industries, it's critical to empower key stakeholders with the ability to quickly and easily monitor trends and adapt to changes in real time.”
Bring in analytics expertise early
“I think one of the mistakes that companies make is they run tests, and different teams run those tests, and when they're done, they might go to an analytics team and say, ‘Hey, can you help me analyze this?’” Kansal said. “A lot of times the answer is, ‘I can, but it won’t lead to any useful impact. You should have structured the test differently, which would have helped us measure it better.’”
Kansal always tells his team to bring in analytics from the outset and to partner with data experts to set up any experiment with a strong business context.
“Those are our best moments: When an analytics team understands our team’s work, they might come back and say, ‘Hey, I found something useful.’ The team will give you an insight that you’ve never had, and it has a significant business impact.”
For example, Flywire’s analytics team used machine learning to help design an automated matching system and reconciliation system for invoices and incoming payments, something that used to be done manually, because they were able to understand the pain point.
When analytics expertise is baked in from the beginning, it helps startups improve their products and grow in a more strategic way. “We’re seeing tech automation, we are using smart analytical tools, and that’s really one of the big areas that the team has been investing their time in, helping us scale this business. We might have ten times the size of the business — but we don’t need 10 times the number of people, because of the product and analytics team’s tools.”
In short: Don’t underestimate your data and analytics team.
Data and analytics, Kansal said, are “the source of truth and a big lever for growth.”
Read more from MIT
Whatever the new normal becomes, small-business owners will be at the forefront of shaping life as we know it. Some trends will prove durable long beyond this time.
Senior Director of Product Management for Adobe Spark
Tigers now have kings. Grandmothers are requesting video meetings. Masks are a fashion statement. Changes are coming quickly, somehow happening for all of us at once, despite our population never being more physically distant. It is a dizzying time. Among the groups most challenged by this torrent of societal shifts are small businesses. Doors have been closed, and some may not reopen. These, however, are some of the most resilient and creative people on the planet. Whatever the new normal becomes, small-business owners will be at the forefront of shaping life as we know it. To help stoke those masters of ingenuity, here are some current trends I think will stick around.
1. Printed materials will face greater headwinds.
People have been predicting the downfall of print for decades. That is not the prediction here. Print has remained a key part of many small-business marketing playbooks even as digital and social content has taken off. The physical nature of a brochure that can be picked up and explored creates a visceral experience that digital content has yet to replace. It is precisely that visceral aspect that will make printed materials more scrutinized even after we emerge from the worst of the crisis.
That stack of brochures in the doctor’s office might start to seem unhygienic. Print materials that are literally handed from one person to another — like business cards or certificates — will be hit the hardest. Items that are viewed from a distance like posters and signs should see less impact. Adobe Spark, a product I help lead at Adobe, is already seeing drops in search demand by as much as 75 percent for some forms of print output.
2. Digital channels will become a core marketing tactic for new businesses.
Brick-and-mortar small-business owners are often reticent to spend their small amount of free time learning creative tools or how to build a successful social media strategy. The stay-at-home order has created both the time and the need to lean far more heavily on digital marketing.
Some might expect staying at home to drive people toward a full "Netflix and chill" approach to spending their time. There has actually been a surge of creative activity, especially around creating videos, banners and other digital marketing content. Spark has seen a rise in search demand by as much as 75 percent for social content. If Grandma can learn Zoom, small-business owners can learn how to post to their Instagram story.
3. Building a customer email list will be even more vital.The sudden nature of this crisis made it challenging to communicate with customers.
Business owners who had invested in developing customer email lists or methods for direct communication, such as social media groups, were in a far better position to maintain those relationships and manage demand as they came up with new ways to provide their goods or services.
Web sites, ecommerce, email lists and loyalty programs were wise strategies prior to now and will gain even more prominence. We might also see increased interest in developing custom mobile applications and personalization to form even tighter bonds.
4. More team collaboration from a distance.Staying in touch with customers is critical, but they are not the only people you will need to communicate with from afar.
Companies that already had ways to coordinate work with their employees online were in a better position to maintain operations than those who were completely reliant on face-to-face collaboration. Videoconferencing has been one of the clear beneficiaries as people from all walks of life are finding new ways to leverage the technology to stay connected. Conversations, though, are time-consuming.
The wisest businesses will take advantage of remote collaboration platforms that allow employees to work with each other asynchronously. Slack and Microsoft Teams have seen dramatic rises in usage. We have also seen an influx of new users in Spark who are taking advantage of the ability to allow businesses to set up their brand online and collaborate with others on branded digital content. Many of these products can be used for free, and given the likelihood that this situation may go on for a long time, there is every reason to get set up with them now.
5. More businesses of one.
Not every business can be done remotely. Technology has not enabled remote deck cleaning or massage services. That is causing many people to explore alternative sources of income. At the same time, we are seeing a huge rise in demand for remote experiences. People are turning to online fitness and cooking classes. They are picking up a guitar and taking online lessons. They are watching online concerts and performances.
The combination of skilled people at home needing to make money and bored people at home looking to enrich or entertain themselves is a recipe for a booming population of micro-entrepreneurs. One person with a skill in demand can find an audience. It may, or may not, surpass the earning potential of whatever the person was doing before, but it will open many people’s eyes to new possibilities.
6. Creating ongoing value that makes sense to sell as a subscription will be a major advantage.
As micro-entrepreneurs find their niche outside of the structures that usually helped them get paid, they have a unique opportunity to set their own prices and set up their own monetization structures.
This has the capacity to greatly destabilize how we value certain kinds of work or online experiences. It puts the power (and the responsibility) in the hands of individual creators, coaches or experience-makers. Savvy entrepreneurs could see greater income and stability by turning to subscription models and leaning into both live online experiences and asynchronous income sources.
This crisis is creating a strong incentive to push past any hesitation and build out an online aspect of how to operate. Many small businesses will be forced to have two business plans: one that operates when social distancing orders are lifted, and one that they can flip on when people are ordered to stay at home. These need not be mutually exclusive. The backup mode of operation can act as a way to augment existing business, even while people are allowed to physically enter the shop.
Read more from Entrepreneur
By Meeta Vengapally
Being an entrepreneur is hard enough. In the best of times, it can feel like skydiving without a parachute. So just imagine what it’s like during continued lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and the news about the COVID-19 pandemic changing every day. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it—you’re probably living it.
I’m not only an entrepreneur myself, I’m also a wife and mother who is trying to balance running my business with taking care of my family during these difficult times. I’m here to tell you that I feel your pain, and as fellow entrepreneurs, we’re all in this together.
There’s a good chance you feel a loss of direction right now. Every business in this country is being put to the test, and now your bright, shiny business idea may seem impossible. Hold on! I have always believed that with fierce challenges come even fiercer opportunities. Are we going to get to the other side of this? Yes, we will. And if you follow some of the tips I’m sharing here, you may even come out on that other side a stronger, better, badass entrepreneur. It’s time to dig down deep.
1. Work your butt off
Yes, you’re quarantined at home, taking care of kids, preparing meals, and keeping the house in order, but you can still find some time to focus your energy on your business. The entrepreneurial spirit will move you forward. Even if you’ve experienced a decline in business, which is likely, that doesn’t mean that you should back down and give up. When your business rebounds, you’re going to find that you can reach new heights if you continue to drive forward at this time. And while it’s almost impossible to create “normal” working conditions while trapped at home, I can tell you one thing—it can spark a whole lot of creativity.
2. Communication is more important than ever
Talk to people. Be open and honest with them. This includes your employees, clients, and shareholders. Everyone is drawn to strong leadership right now. It brings us comfort. Step up and be one of those leaders, opening your heart and your mind to those that rely on you. If you give them a sense of direction and purpose at this moment, they’re going to be more devoted to you than ever before. Stay positive and resilient and you’ll put stakeholders at ease. Inspire confidence. And be sure to use social media like a boss to let people know that you and your business are staying strong.
3. Keep the passion alive As entrepreneurs, we know that our businesses are about passion. Passion is what gives us the courage to do the impossible. It’s the force that drives us to new heights. Don’t let go of your passion! Make it deeper, fiercer, and more focused. We all have more time on our hands. Even in busy households, some lulls allow you to use your imagination. What a great time this is to dream about your business, breathe new life into it, and see it differently. Make a dream board for where you want things to go. Start planning what your passion project is going to look like in the future. This time can either be a black hole for your business or it can be an incubation period—make it the latter.
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4. Know what you can and can’t control
There’s very little that we have control over right now. But you’ll find that there are a lot of aspects of your business that you can control. For instance, what are those things you’ve put off forever because you never had the time for them? Maybe it’s putting some new systems in place to replace those that weren’t working in the past. What skills have you always wanted to improve upon that could benefit your business? Consider updating your website, asking employees to take online training courses to improve their skills, rethinking or expanding your social media approach (for example, start an Instagram page if you don’t already have one). These are all things that you can control.
5. Plan for a much different business landscape
Let’s face it, when most businesses come back, the consumer market will have changed. Whether you’re selling goods or services, what are people going to be buying? How will the COVID-19 pandemic have changed your customers’ needs, and how can you better serve them in that new era? It’s going to be a remarkable time for innovation. If you start to brainstorm now, you’ll be way ahead of the pack once the country opens up again.
6. Communicate with compassion
It’s scary out there right now—there’s no denying it. If you have an email list, or a Facebook or Instagram page, now is the time to put out quality content that shows you care. Say something meaningful and don’t step back and disappear. If people have signed up for your emails or subscribed to you in any way, it’s time to speak up consistently and with a compassionate tone. If you have business or service providers that are reaching out to connect with you at this time, aren’t you far more likely to return to them once this thing is done? Put out the good feels and see your customers’ positive energy return to you when the time is right.
7. Get personal
I get a kick out of watching the evening news or entertainment shows now being broadcasted from people’s living rooms. We’re farther apart these days, but we also have an amazing opportunity to be closer than ever. Get personal with your customers, staff, clients, and board members. Bring them into your home. Introduce everyone to the family. Have a Zoom coffee date with someone you want to network with. Just because we’re physically separated doesn’t mean we can’t get to know each other better and build even stronger bonds.
8. Don’t give up
It sounds corny but it’s the absolute truth. Entrepreneurs can not only survive this time, but they can also become better versions of themselves. Yes, it’s really hard, and there might be days when you think you’re going to go insane. The dog won’t stop barking, the kids won’t stop screaming, and none of them are going anywhere for a while. Breathe, center yourself, and know that you’re killing it right now. Keep learning, growing, and innovating, and feel free to consider yourself one of the greatest badass entrepreneurs out there.
Meeta Vengapally is the Founder & CEO of Garnysh, a Silicon Valley-based fitness and technology company that uses real-time tracking and motivation to support fitness goals. Meeta is also a top influencer on social media, empowering women, entrepreneurs, and organizations of all types. Thus far, she is a spokesperson for over 500 brands and growing. Follow Meeta on Instagram to become part of her motivational and positive community, and read a profile of Meeta Vengapally on Forbes.
RELATED: 3 Rules for Business Success as a Woman Entrepreneur
This article was originally published on AllBusiness.
Advice often tells you to keep work and romance separate, but there's a way to make it work.
Co-Founder and CEO of Webmetrix Group
It’s a common line of thinking to keep your work and personal lives separate. And yet, because a business partnership can be similar to a marriage, it makes sense that many spouses and romantic partners do work together on a company. Recently, a friend of mine told me they were curious about this dynamic. My wife and I have somewhat similar careers and both work from home, so in many ways, we work side by side daily.
Related: The Science Behind Working With Your Spouse
Of course, a professional relationship between romantic partners comes down to the dynamic between two people. What works for some couples may not work for others, and no two couples are the same. However, the following tips will be helpful if you’re considering starting a business with your partner, or if you’ve just started working together.
1. Don’t expect that both of you will give 50 percent all the time
While cofounders typically split responsibilities and workloads down the middle initially, time shows that it’s never fully even. The same is true of marriage or any relationship — at different times, one person is going to be giving more than the other.
Related: How I Built My Business So That My Husband Could Quit His Job
The same is true in building a business. While it can be hard to separate this from the relationship, recognize that one of you will always care more or give more than the other, even if that changes at times. Maybe initially, the one of you who came up with the idea is more excited and is therefore giving more time. But then eventually, different responsibilities come up that shift the effort share. Managing expectations here is critical.
2. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
How you communicate matters, too. I was recently catching up with Anthony and Mary Hood, spouses and cofounders of women’s jewelry company Hollywood Sensation. They’ve been married for 10 years and cofounders for eight. They shared that their best advice is to use “I” statements during conversations, especially during the hard ones.
Related: Here's How People Successfully Work With Friends, Family and Even Their Spouse
“Using ‘I’ statements can help convey the way you're feeling and promote a productive, positive conversation, instead of hurting your partner's feelings or ego,” they advised. “Rather than saying something like, ‘You never pick up the slack in the business,’ try saying, ‘I’m feeling overwhelmed in the business.'” These communication strategies should also be used outside the working relationship
3. Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses
One advantage of starting a business with your spouse or partner is how well you know each. You might not be as aware of a cofounder's strengths and weaknesses as you are of your partner's. But being in a relationship is very different than being business partners, and you should be prepared for new strengths and weaknesses to emerge. It should be an ongoing conversation. Talk candidly about each of your strengths and weaknesses in an open and compassionate way, so that you can strategize accordingly.
4. Take time for yourself
Finally, make sure you have time just for you. Whether it’s a solo trip to the gym or a night out with friends, give yourselves some time apart. Everyone — even the world’s most enviable couples — needs space from each other. This space will help not only the business but also the relationship.
Related: A Blind Date Led to Marriage -- and the Acquisition of an Almond Butter Company That's Now Worth Millions
Read more from Entrepreneur
It’s heartbreaking to see countless small businesses, the backbone of this great country, closing their doors on account of the coronavirus.
Roughly a quarter of restaurants are expected to permanently close nationwide. As of this writing, over 100,000 small businesses have ceased operations altogether. Many business owners are filing for unemployment or are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. A recent study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife found 43 percent of polled respondents could shut down their stores within six months.
Small Business Grants for 2020 – How to Apply & Win?
By Sarah Davis
| Updated on May 19, 2020
Short in time and looking for COVID-19 grants? Quick Jump
What is a Small Business Grant Anyway?
A small business grant is a form of financial remuneration awarded once the applicant meets the criteria of the grant. The difference between a loan and a grant is that a grant does not have to be repaid, while a loan does. There are grants available for every possible field that you can think of. Typically, they are granted to people in disadvantaged areas or from specific groups – veterans, women, Hispanics, African Americans, etc.
Many grants are also industry-specific. If your business is involved in assisting a minority group in some way, or in helping the environment, then there are certainly going to be grants available. Keep in mind that there are local, state, and federal grants. Many grant programs are available for those doing business in rural areas.
It takes a long time to submit a relevant grant application. Do your research beforehand and make sure that you are applying to the right program. Federal grants are listed at Grants.Gov, and you can even track these grants on IOS and Android applications. However, there is no Federal grant for the simple growth of a business unless you are a minority group or hoping to solve a very specific problem.
How to Find a Grant for a Small Business
For Federal grants, the place to look is Grants.Gov. It is the chief repository of Federal grants. To apply for federal grants, you typically need to have something special to offer in comparison to state or local grants. You’ll also need to register through this online portal and submit the application form.
The SBA offers a number of State & Federal grant programs, and this is also an excellent place to look for eligible grants. Veterans, minority groups, and women-owned businesses should look on the SBA grant list page to see the available options. You can also find the eligibility criteria through the same site. Other places to spot State and Federal grants include:
How to Apply for (and Win) a Business Grant?
#1 – Find the Grant(s)
Many grants will have similar application procedures. Search Local, State, and Federal grant databases of all grants that you are applicable for. Once this is done, compile a spreadsheet of relevant grants. It’s best to apply for a number of grants at the same time to increase your chances of success. But each grant should be well-researched and given the utmost attention. Make your proposal as strong as possible for each.
#2 – Read the Criteria
A significant amount of grant applications are a complete waste, as the applicants do not meet the minimum eligibility criteria. Before you go ahead and apply for a grant, ensure that you read over (twice, preferably) all the conditions upon which the financial compensation is to be awarded.
#3 – Choose Your Grants
Where possible, review how many people applied to each grant last year, and how many prize winners there were. If there were 20,000 applicants for a single prize fund of $5,000, it may not be worth it unless you have a particularly strong application. Try to gauge your chances of success and narrow down to the grants that are really worth applying for. It’s definitely a good idea to investigate what kind of businesses have won in the past and see if yours is a match.
#4 – Request Forms and Information
For state grants, you will need to contact the relevant agency and ask to be sent the application forms. For local and commercial grants, the information is readily available and the forms can be downloaded from the website.
If you happen to be applying for a Federal grant, you will first need to register as a member on their website. You will be given a username and password, submitting the information through the Federal online portal.
#5 – Have a Clearly Defined Business Plan
A business plan is something that all businesses (large or small) should engage in. The plan does not have to be long or comprehensive. But it has to be precise, concise, and coherent. It should outline who you are, what you care about, what the problem is, and how your company intends to solve the problem. You can submit this plan along with your application in many instances.
#6 – Write the Grant Proposal
To a large extent, the business plan should sum up your business and can constitution much of the grant proposal. The business plan defines what your business really does. But it will need to be tailored to each grant you are applying to.
Grant proposal writing is a niche area, and you can hire a skilled grant writer if you are going after larger grants. The proposal should detail why your business is best suited to the grant, how it intends to assist, what the numbers and statistics are, the skills of the people running the company, and best policies to tackle unforeseen events.
#7 – Fill Out Additional Forms
While this is not mandatory, all information that you can supply to the reviewers will increase your chances of success. If there are any question marks over your business, then it leaves room for doubt. Increased transparency is always preferred.
#8 – Review
Missing information will reduce your chances of success. Read over the application to ensure that all data is correct. Once you have submitted the application, all you have to do is wait for the results. You will typically be notified by email. For Federal grants, you will be given a tracking number to monitor your application.
#9 – Reapply
If you did not qualify for a particular grant in a specific year, then don’t get too frustrated or doubtful about the process. You are against many applicants. Apply to the same grants next year, and mention in your proposal that you got declined last year, but have done much good in the interim period despite the odds. Grant writing is a skill – the more you do it, the better you get. You could be leaving money on the table if you avoid this industry completely.
Best Small Business Grants for 2020 (by Categories)
If you’re looking for a shortcut on grant applications, we’ve listed the best grants per category to shorten down on the research time needed. But keep in mind that the more popular a grant is, the more applications it will tend to receive – and the better your application will need to be.
Best General Small Business Grants1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant Global ChallengeThe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation global grant challenge is mainly awarded to non-profit organizations created under 501(C)(3) of the IRS tax code. However, this grant is only available to non-profit organizations. The main stipulation is that your business is orientated towards solving health issues. There are a large number of grants available depending on what problem needs to be resolved. The grant prizes vary, but some of the problems include mental health issues in Africa, hormonal health, economic opportunity, child welfare in impoverished communities, etc.
2. National Association for the Self Employed (NASE) Growth GrantsNASE growth grants are mainly for businesses that are already established and want to take it to the next level. The maximum amount for each grant is $4,000. The upside of this grant is that you have a lot of freedom in terms of what you use the grant for – wages, payroll, marketing, expansion, etc. Applications are reviewed quarterly. This is a quarterly grant. However, you have to be a NASE member to qualify, which is not free.
3. Idea Cafe GrantThe popular Idea Cafe grant gives $1,000 in finance to the most innovative business ideas. This is the ideal grant for businesses that are still in the very early days with little to show for their efforts. Previous winners will include art galleries, bakeries, custom cycling companies, etc. It is currently closed for applications.
4. Global Innovation Exchange Funding DatabaseThe Global Innovation Exchange Funding Database a worldwide funding database with a modern interface. It’s an easy way to find contests and grants that you might not see on other major platforms and is worth keeping an eye on for general small business grants.
Best Small Business Grants for Women5. Amber GrantThe Amber Grant is arguably the most well known of all grants available to women. This program launched in 1998 following the death of Amber, who passed away before her dreams of financial success could materialize. $2000 is awarded to every successful applicant each month. An extra $25,000 is awarded at the end of the year to one of the monthly winners. Businesses owned by women can apply to this each month, though there is a $15 application fee.
6. Cartier Women’s Initiative Award21 women are awarded the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award each and every year, regardless of nationality. There is large financial remuneration available for this – $3,000 for 14 of the women and $100,000 for the 7 top winners. On top of the financial remuneration, all 21 of the women will have access to an INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Executive Education Programme scholarship. 12 months of tutoring and support are other benefits with this program.
7. The Eileen Fisher GrantAlongside the Amber Grant, the Eileen Fisher Grant is among the most popular program for women in business. Each year, 10 businesses are awarded $10,000. However, these women-owned businesses are invariably involved in social and environmental change. So you will need to keep this in mind when applying. You must further be established for longer than 3 years to qualify.
8. GirlBossFoundation Grant2 Women are awarded this GirlBoss Foundation grant each year. The financial compensation is $15,000 for the winners. This is more of a ‘creative arts’ grant. Women in the field of art, interior design, cosmetics, music, etc, can qualify with the GirlBossFoundation. This grant is more focused on artistic creation as opposed to planning and financial diligence. Other benefits include exposure to the GirlsBossFoundation media channels.
9. The InnovateHer ChallengeThe InnovateHer Challange is a grant that is funded by the SBA for women entrepreneurs that run every year. There are 3 winners, with first-place receiving $40,000, second winning $20,000, and third, being granted $10,000. It’s a very reputable grant to win.
10. Tory Burch Fellows ProgramThis is a $5,000 Tony Burch grant for women involved in business enterprises. It also offers the support that women need to advance their initiatives. In addition to the cash prize, grant winners will get a 12-month fellowship and a visit to the Tony Birch office to meet influential people and other networking opportunities.
11. American Association of University Women Career Development GrantWomen who are currently pursuing a university degree can apply to the AAUW for a career development program. This will help to fund major shifts in life. This university is focused on female empowerment through a number of initiatives.
12. The Halstead GrantThis is another very well known grant for women in business. The Halstead Grant offers financial remuneration ($7,500) for small businesses involved in the jewelry industry. $1,000 in Halstead merchandise is also provided.
13. Open Meadows FoundationOpen Meadows Foundation grants are biannual awards of $2,000. The grant is awarded to smaller organizations with an operating budget of under $75,000 per year. Grants are specifically for women-led projects that benefit women and girls. The foundation looks for projects that are designed and implemented by women and girls and focuses on building a community. Those with limited financial access have the best odds of taking home the prize.
14. 37 AngelsA group of women investors came together to create 37 Angels. They recognize that just 13 percent of angel investors are women, and work to bring that to 50 percent. 37 Angels grants come with an accelerator program to bring your entire business to the next level. While the capital inflow comes in the form of an investment and not a grant, it could be just what your business needs to grow and succeed. ’37 Angels’ is more of a networking opportunity as opposed to an investment program.
15. Belle CapitalBelle Capital offers investments in early-stage, women-led companies. Like, 37 Angels, they want a return on their investment (technically this is a venture capital investment and not a grant.)The Belle Capital fund is targeted to invest in 10 to 15 high growth companies. This is no handout. Investment criteria are strict, as they look for small businesses that are aiming to reach $20 Million in revenue.
16. Grants for WomenGrants For Women is the perfect outlet to find small scale grants that crop up, as well as scholarship opportunities. You could be the first to find new grants that have less competition. This is not specifically a grant competition, but a database for all available grants for women-owned business owners.
Best Small Business Grants for Minorities17. Minority Business Development AgencyThe Minority Business Development Agency (‘MBDA’) is one of the primary places to look for minority grants of all kinds. Right now, there are 3 ongoing minority grants (few of these grants are yearly, but tend to change regularly with different requirements).
These 3 grants include the Enterprising Women of Color Grant Competition, the Entrepreneurship Education Program for Formerly Incarcerated Persons Grant Competition, and the Inner City Hub Innovation Grant Competition. All of these grants are only available to minority groups (women, felons, African Americans, etc).
18. First Nations Development Institution GrantsSmall businesses that are owned by Native Americans can apply for First Nations Development Institution Grants. This is a long-standing grant facility, established all the way back in 1993 and facilitating over $33 Million in grants. There are no restrictions on the application process, as long as the owner is Native American.
19. Minerals and Mining on Indian LandsThis grant is administered by the Department of the Interior. It allows financial compensation for Native Americans to evaluate mineral and mining potential in specific areas (Native American Reservations).
20. Community Connect GrantsThis grant is focused on internet connectivity. If your business is located in a rural area and focused on increasing broadband connectivity, then a community connect grant could be approved. This is a Department of Agriculture business grant.
21. Empowered Communities for a Healthier Nation InitiativeThis grant is orientated towards small businesses involved in healthcare and other health-related services. Specifically, the Empowered Communities for a Healthier Nation Initiative deals with health care for minority groups.
22. Caleb Brown Urban Entrepreneur’s Community GrantThe Caleb Brown Venture Capital and Consulting Project hosts a $1,000 grant aimed at promoting and nurturing young urban entrepreneurs with vision who plan to rebuild local blocks and communities. It also provides them with training to empower future generations. The grant is open to startups and young businesses in urban areas. This contest is run every month—submit your application by the 15th to enter.
Check out our recommended business loans for minorities
Best Small Business Grants for Veterans23. Veteran Business Outreach CentersThere are 15 Veteran Business Outreach Centers located across the USA. These centers offer finance, management training, and consultancy for veterans looking to make the transition to entrepreneurship. These centers are overseen by the Office of Veterans Business Development (‘OBVD’), which facilitates SBA grants to veterans.
24. StreetShares Foundation Veterans Business GrantThe StreetShares Foundation veteran grant is available not only to veterans but also to their spouses. The total amount available for this grant is $5,000 and is accepted based on the business idea, use of funds, product to market fit, and benefits for the veteran community. The StreetShares Foundation is a 501 (C) (3) corporation created solely for the purposes of educating and supporting the military entrepreneurial community.
25. Warrior RisingThe Warrior Rising grant is for US veterans and their family members who are looking at financial empowerment through grants, mentorship, and training. You can support this foundation or provide mentorship, as well as become a ‘vetrepreneur’. Warrior Rising hosts a number of initiatives for the empowerment of US veterans.
26. Veteran Support Foundation GrantThe Veteran Support Foundation (‘VSF’) provides funding to US veterans who are involved in non-profit organizations only. Funding is only provided for veterans involved in scientific, charitable, and educational purposes. They also offer a host of veteran support services outside of these grants. Funds are dispersed in October of every year, upon acceptance.
Important Note: There are not all that many veteran grants available, despite the appearances. All that is offered seems to be training and mentoring, which may not be what a business really needs. However, veterans can typically apply for any of the grants that are available to minorities, covered above. They can also take advantage of special loans, such as the SBA Veterans advantage loan or the Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Check out our financing guide for veterans, including loans
Best Federal Small Business GrantsImportant Note: There are too many Federal grants to list, so only the most prominent examples have been mentioned here. Unless your small business is solving an issue in the field of technology, engineering, or health, you are unlikely to gain funding. Applications need to stand out to qualify for these grants.
27. SBIRSBIR (along with STRR, below) is the most popular business grant and research agency in the USA. SBIR stands for ‘Small Business Innovation Research’. SBIR is one of the biggest sources of funding for new businesses looking to engage in novel research that can be commercialized. SBIR is mainly focused on early-stage small businesses in the field of medicine. SBIR and STTR are collectively known as ‘Americas’ Seed Fund’.
28. STTRSTTR is similar to SBIR but is a bit more advanced. In order to qualify, the small business will have to actively collaborate with a recognized research institution. Under STTR, the small business must do 40% of the work, 30% for the research institution, and the rest will fall upon third-parties. Both STTR and SBIR also provide many grant opportunities to women business persons and socially disadvantaged groups. Note that practically all Federal grants are run through the SBIR/STTR programs.
29. NASAThe National Aeronautics and Space Administration (‘NASA’) provides a number of grants. Obviously, this is a very niche category. The program is broken down into 3 stages for funding. $125,000 is granted in the first phase, $750,000 in the second, and variable funding in the third. Numerous grants are offered by this agency. Applications with NASA are done through the SBIR (‘Small Business Innovation Research’) or STTR (‘Small Business Technology Transfer’) programs, like most Federal grants.
30. National Institutes of HealthIf your business is involved in the delivery of medical equipment, then you could be the beneficiary of a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Like most federal programs, it is broken down into 3 areas for funding. Applications with the National Institutes of Health are done through the SBIR or STTR programs.
31. Department of EnergyThe Office of Science from the Department of Energy provides small business grants to companies involved in environmental science, renewable energy, and other scientific/engineering related topics. Like all Federal grants, applications are submitted through the SBIR and STTR.
32. Environmental Protection AgencyThe Environmental Protection Agency (‘EPA’) offers numerous grants to businesses involved in areas of environmental concern (renewable energy, plastic recycling, resource management, water filtration, etc).
33. Homeland SecurityBusinesses that work in the field of surveillance, network administration, maritime security, munitions, chemical defense, etc, can contact the Department of Homeland Security with regard to a potential grant scheme.
34. Department of TransportationSmall businesses that are involved in the transportation of various kinds can contact an arm of the Department of Transportation (known as Volpe) for an application. Your business will need to be involved in the development of technology surrounding railways, highways, and airstrips.
35. Department of EducationSmall businesses can find education grants under the National Center for Education Research. If your business is involved in the development of technology in authentic education settings for infants, teachers, or students, then you may be eligible.
36. National Oceanic & Atmospheric AdministrationThe Technology Partnerships Office of The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (‘NOAA”) provides grants for companies involved in coastline economies and maritime affairs.
37. Department of Justice GrantsThe Department of Justice provides grant funds to projects that support law enforcement, public safety activities, and projects that improve the court and general criminal justice system. A number of agencies within the DOJ provide grants—last year they offered over 20 different grant programs.
38. Department of the Interior GrantsThe Department of the Interior provides small business grants—for instance, there’s an outstanding grant offered by the US Geological Survey for the collection of topographic elevation data. Find other DOI grant opportunities on grants.gov.
39. USDA Rural Development Business GrantsThe USDA Department of Agriculture offers both loans and grants to businesses and cooperatives in rural areas to create quality jobs. The fund community projects such as the development of housing, community facilities, and other services.
Best State Small Business GrantsImportant Note: There are too many state and regional small business grants to list, so only 3 have been listed here (Every state/local area will have many grants programs – reach out to the relevant state/county websites for more details).
40. Arizona Commerce AuthorityThis is the ideal resource for businesses located in Arizona. There are a plethora of options and grant competitions announced throughout the year. The Arizona Commerce Authority is designed to stimulate the state economy, like similar state-mandated incentives. The Arizona step grant is one of its most popular programs.
41. Arkansas Infrastructure Grant ProgramThe Arkansas Infrastructure Grant Program is run by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. There are several grants on offers, all aimed at businesses that are contributing to economic development in the state. The Arkansaw Infrastructure Grant Program is aimed specifically at small businesses that are creating jobs. More details can be found on the state website.
42. Colorado Export Development GrantThe Colorado Export Development Grant is designed primarily for startups and high growth small business firms with strong business ideas that are looking to revolutionize the economy. This grant hopes to ensure that innovation continues in the state. Small and medium-sized businesses are best served by this grant, in comparison to larger enterprises.
43. Iowa Business Development GrantThere is a wide range of grants provided by the Iowa state department, one of which is the Iowa Business Development Grant. This grant is primarily aimed at manufacturing centers, but also extends to retail outlets, particularly those that will help to boost downtown areas that need urban renewal. Check the Iowa grants portal for more information.
44. Kansas Job Creation FundAs the name suggests, the Kansas Job Creation Fund is designed to create jobs in the state. New businesses that are looking at a helping hand are best advised to take advantage. The requirements for this particular grant are quite low. This fund is also aiming to attract new businesses into the state.
45. Louisiana Community Development Block GrantLow-income residents in Louisiana can get some assistance through the Louisiana Community Development Block Grant. While a small business cannot apply directly, you can receive funding if you are doing related work by helping the community. Disaster recovery grants are also possible through this avenue.
46. Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant ProgramEvery three months, participants are awarded funding from the Maryland Child Care Quality Incentive Grant Program (‘CCQIG’). Small businesses involved in child care facilities can benefit from this grant.
47. Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and FundMaryland actually has a large number of state grants available to residents. Another grant option is the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (‘MEDAAF’). This is actually an unusually broad business grant and many businesses will be eligible.
48. Minnesota Dairy Business Planning GrantThis grant is only available to a very narrow range of applicants. On the other hand, what this means is that the competition for this is very low. Businesses that are involved in agriculture, the environment, or daily farming can benefit from the Minnesota Dairy Business Planning Grant.
49. Minnesota REETAINREETAIN stands for Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now. If your business is involved in childcare or education then you can easily qualify. The prizes range from $1,500 to $3,500. It is mainly for childcare professionals and small businesses setting up childcare facilities.
50. Idaho State Trade Expansion Program (‘STEP’) GrantThe Idaho STEP grant has an equivalent in practically every other state – all wish to increase trade in the region. The STEP program is well recognized. The main difference is that each state will have very specific criteria for a successful application. The Idaho STEP grant caters primarily to businesses that are looking to expand into international markets.
51. Illinois Recycling Expansion and Modernization ProgramLike state economic grants, most states will have some form of environmental grants available to local small businesses. In Illinois, this is known as the Recycling Expansion and Modernization Program (‘REM’). The grant extends all the way to $250,000. However, this is a matching cash grant, meaning you have to put up an equal amount of funding in order to get the amount you desire.
Best Corporate Small Business Grants52. FedEx Small Business GrantsFedEx offers one of the most well-known small business grant programs available. Unfortunately, this means that qualification chances are low. In 2018, there were 7,800 applications and 10 winners. This means that the chances of success are about 0.13%, which are not great odds. The winner of this grant was awarded $25,000, second place got awarded $15,000, and the rest $7,500.
53. Coca-Cola FoundationThe Coca Cola Foundation has provided over $1 Billion since its inception in 1984. The grants are nearly always offered to humanitarian initiatives, such as water projects in Africa, education, or renewable energy. Your small business must be involved in one of three areas to qualify – the empowerment of struggling women, environmental protection, or youth development.
54. Comcast Innovations 4 EntrepreneursComcast offers a small business grant to entrepreneurs who are looking to advance in the field of technology and communications. The winners of this prize will receive up to $20,000 in funding for their new venture. They will also benefit from a trip to Philadelphia in order to meet with business innovators who can bring their ideas to fruition.
55. Visa Everywhere InitiativeEach year, the VISA Everywhere Initiative offers 3 winners $50,000. The winners are in the payments industry with innovative solutions. The program was launched in 2016 and has been a huge international success.
56. Kuvio CreativeThis is a niche grant offered to businesses that are making a difference. This grant opens 3 times a year. However, it is only available to non-profits, minority businesses, veterans, and women-owned businesses. In addition, the reward is not financial but consists of 100 hours of free services offered by Kuvio Creative – mainly marketing and web design.
57. Wells Fargo Community InvestmentWells Fargo offers a grant in nearly every state, though its Community Investment Program. The banks offer local, national, and specialized grant programs.
Best Non-Profit GrantsNote: Practically every single international conglomerate company (Pfizer, Monsanto, Bank of America, Duke Energy, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Facebook, etc) has grant programs in place to assist non-profits in global improvement. Large foundations will also provide such programs.
58. Alcoa Foundation
The Alcoa Foundation issues grants to non-profits with a focus on increasing education in localized communities. They also actively participate in the communities where grants are allocated. Alcoa is a Foundation designed to further global education. The main emphasis is on STEM research and resource sustainability.
59. Bristol-Myers SquibbThe BMS Foundation provides grants to nonprofits focusing on disease prevention and assisting individuals with specific medical needs.
60. CaterpillarThe Caterpillar Foundation accepts grant requests by invitation only. They work primarily with large national and international non-profit organizations.
61. CitiGroupCitiGroup gives corporate grants to 14 large nonprofits through its Partners In Progress program and for 2016 has also launched a $20 million Community Progress Makers Fund.
62. Duke EnergyThe Duke Energy Foundation offers local community development grants up to $10,000 to nonprofit organizations whose programs and missions support at least one of the Duke Energy Foundation’s four investment priorities: education, economic and workforce development, environment, and community impact.
63. EmersonThe Emerson Charitable Trust supports nonprofits in these areas: arts & culture, civic, education, health, and youth.
64. EnterpriseThe Enterprise Foundation has given grants to thousands of local non-profits focused on community improvement, education, and environmental stewardship.
65. Exxon MobilThe Exxon Mobil Foundation supports nonprofit groups by focusing the majority of its charitable donations on creating economic opportunities for women, furthering math & science education, and malaria prevention.
66. FordThe Ford Motor Company Fund provides nonprofit grants to groups focusing on community life, education, and safety.
67. GE FoundationThe GE Foundation focuses its corporate grants primarily on health and education through its Developing Health and Developing Futures initiatives.
68. Walmart Foundation GrantsThe Walmart Foundation offers grants to non-profit organizations. It runs two categories of non-profits, local and national. The local/community grant ranges between $250 and $5,000. The national grant is for $250,000 and above. Any socially orientated business is welcome to apply, with an aim to bettering the world at large.
69. Wells Fargo Community Giving GrantsWells Fargo Community Giving Grants are aimed at nonprofit organizations as well as educational institutions. Businesses can apply for this grant at any time, unlike most other programs with fixed application dates. Wells Fargo grants are unique in the sense that there is no fixed amount of grant award, and it will depend on the unique model in question.
70. 3M3M focuses its corporate grants in three areas: education, community, and the environment. Most of their grants are to invited non-profit partners or through matching employee giving.
Best Small Business Corona Virus Grants71. Amazon Neighborhood Small Business Relief FundLike all major US-based conglomerates, Amazon is helping out with the Corona Virus. However, this is only being provided to small businesses in Seattle. Applications are accepted online and this is only available to businesses with fewer than 50 employees or less than $7 Million in annual revenue. The requirements are a little stiff – the businesses need to be located ‘within a few blocks’ of official Amazon offices, and must be open to the general public. However, the cash prizes are huge – up to $5 Million.
72. Facebook Small Business Grants ProgramThe Facebook Small Business Grants Program is offering a massive $100 Million in cash grants and advertising credits not just in the state or country, but internationally. 30,000 small businesses across 30 countries can apply. The program is currently overwhelmed with applications, like many other incentives. Requirements are similar to Amazon – business must have a physical presence near a Facebook office and have fewer than 50 employees. Facebook has also set up a small business resource hub to help out.
73. SBA PayCheck Protection Program (‘PPP’)The SBA Paycheck Protection Program (‘PPP’) is the foremost relief option for small business owners in the USA. It provides employers with funding to pay wages and other essential expenses, so employees are not laid off.
This program is available with the biggest online lenders (OnDeck, Kabbage, LoanBuilder, Lending Club, SmartBiz, etc) as well as large financial institutions. However, the program ran out of funding from April 16 to the 27th. New relief has been provided but these programs are often overwhelmed. This loan/grant does not have to be repaid.
74. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Relief (‘EIDL’) AdvanceThe SBA Economic Injury Disaster Relief (‘EIDL’) Advance is a $10,000 advance on the standard EIDL loan. This grant/loan does not have to be repaid. All businesses with less than 500 employees may apply. Businesses suffering from a loss of revenue due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply. Unfortunately, like most SBA programs, funding is not available at the current time and new applications are not being processed, except for businesses in the agricultural industry.
75. SBA Debt ReliefBusinesses who are currently benefiting from an SBA loan of any kind (microloan, 7(a), or CRE (7)(a) do not have to repay the loan during COVID-19. Lenders have been ordered to stop collecting payments on all SBA loans. Similar debt relief options are available with nearly all commercial lenders. Those who are still demanding payment during COVID-19 are having a very hard time on review sites with tonnes of angry customers. SBA debt relief is applicable to all recipients of SBA programs.
76. SBA Express Bridge LoanBusinesses that already have a relationship with the SBA through an express loan can now gain access to a $25,000 advance very quickly. Those who are waiting on funding for an EIDL application can use this SBA Express Bridge Loan Advance in the meantime. This loan will be repaid in full, upon the successful completion of the EIDL loan. For more information on all the Corona Virus financial options, check out the FinImpact comprehensive guide.
77. Yelp SupportYelp Support is now offering cash prizes. However, they are offering something better. Yelp is providing $25 million in waived advertising fees. The benefits of a good advertising campaign are huge, as any business owner can attest. These grants are aimed at small businesses including restaurants, bars, cafes, etc. This is being offered in lieu of the Corona Virus pandemic.
78. Save Small Business FundThe US Department of Commerce has released a Save Small Business Fund to employers that employes between 3 – 20 employees. The business must be an eligible area and all that is needed to apply is a W9 tax form and to be in an affected area. A $5,000 grant for expenses is the maximum amount under this program. New applications are not being accepted at the current time.
Read our survival guide for SMBs & COVID-19
Best Small Business Grants for Startups79. ActivityHero Business GrantThis grant is partly run by GoDaddy, a huge online hosting services provider. 8 children’s facilities are awarded cash prizes for their services. The ActivyHero business grant application process is a competition based on popularity. – 3 family reviews are needed, and the most popular grant (as voted by customers) gets the prize. The top prize is a $10,000 grant for a specific children camp.
80. 4.0 Schools FellowshipsThe 4.0 Schools Fellowship is aimed at entrepreneurs who are looking to improve educational facilities in the USA. The prizes range from $600 to $10,000, depending on how far along in the business process the idea happens to be. The deadline for each application process is in September.
81. Jack Daniel’s Pitch DistilledSmall business owners with revolutionary new business ideas can apply to the Jack Daniels Pitch Distilled grant competition. The idea is then pitched to a group of wealthy business owners at the event. The winner of this will pocket $5,000 in funds, as well as ideas from the business owners as to how to bring it to fruition.
Check out our recommended business loans for startups
Miscellaneous Small Business Grants & Resources82. AT&T AspireCurrently, AT&T are not accepting applications for their Aspire grants, so you’ll need to monitor this page. The grants are intended for small businesses that are focused on improving education, especially for high schools.
83. SAMSAM.gov was once known as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. This is another great federal grant database with a modern re-design. However, it is still in beta, and users might experience glitches. While there is some overlap with Grants.gov, you’ll find a number of unique ones as well that makes it worth your time to check.
84. Challenge.govChallange.gov technically isn’t a site that offers grants, but they do offer significant amounts of prize money for solving challenges facing a variety of industries. Many are technology-oriented, but their certain common problems to be resolved as well.
85. GrantWatch:GrantWatch doesn’t offer any grants themselves but keeps on top of new grants that are available for veterans.
86. Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant ProgramThe Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant program offers grants up to $1,500 and are for student-owned businesses at the University of Michigan. The grants are only available for students, but you do not need to own a business already to qualify for one, you just need a good idea. It’s as much of an educational program as it is a funding one.
87. Lending TreeLending Tree primarily offers different types of loans, but also periodically runs small business grant contests. In 2017, the winner won $50,000.
88. 100,000 Strong in the Americas100,000 Strong in the Americas grants are specifically for higher education institutions. While your small business can’t apply for these grants directly, you could partner with a higher education institution if your business offers services for students.
Business Grants – What are the Downsides?
Business grants constitute a form of financial compensation that does not have to be repaid. However, this does not mean that it comes without any disadvantages. First, it takes time and energy to apply for a grant. When this means, really, is that it costs money to file for a grant, even if it does not cost anything directly.
If you do succeed with a grant application, expect a rigorous follow-up. The institution that allocated you the finance will expect you to allocate the money towards the goals the grant provides for. There are reporting and due diligence requirements to account for.
These are the two primary downsides. You have to research grants and spend a lot of time and energy applying for them. This comes with no small amount of stress and paperwork. You also have to follow through and report back to the organization.
Of course, the main downside is that you could spend a lot of energy, time, and money applying for grants, and not qualify for a single one of them. In other words, the biggest downside is that it could be a complete waste of time if you don’t succeed.
Differences Between a Business Loan and a Business Grant
Many people (and even reputable lending institutions) use the terms ‘loan’ and ‘grant’ interchangeably. But a loan is a financial agreement between two parties, generated by a credit institution (i.e. a bank) and underwritten by the lending institution. The funds are given to a qualified applicant on the condition that the funds will be repaid at periodic intervals, along with interest. The applicant will typically need to meet the minimum credit score requirements, minimum annual revenue, and minimum time in business.
On the other hand, a grant does not have to be repaid. Because it is not a loan, it is not subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and financial reporting requirements in comparison to a loan. The SBA is currently describing its Corona Relief options as loans that do not have to be repaid, but this is actually incorrect terminology. A loan that does not have to be repaid is a grant, the defining criteria of a loan being something that is temporarily borrowed before being repaid.
Best Alternatives to Small Business Grants
If you want to be assured of finance without going through an unsecured grant application process, then there are a number of alternative options you could consider. The 3 primary options are SBA loans, online lenders, and crowdfunding.
SBA LoansSBA loans are the most common means of financial access. They offer the largest amounts of cash for the lowest interest rates. You can apply for SBA loans through a bank or large financial institution. Alternatively, you can apply using a quick online process, such as through SmartBiz. The primary disadvantage of this loan is that it’s extremely hard to qualify for, with a large list of documentary requirements to satisfy. It also takes a long time to process.
CrowdfundingCrowdfunding is a newer route for small businesses. It garnered a lot of attention around 2017 and 2018 with sites such as GoFundME, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter. However, the industry has become a little saturated and there is a lot of work that goes into such a campaign. Additionally, a small business needs to have a really unique proposition with an aim at social, technological, or environmental revolution to gain the required funding.
Online LendersOnline lenders are hands down the best route to take in terms of acquiring finance quickly, without hassle. If you simply need cash fast to keep your business afloat without messing around, an online lender is the best option. By far.
The best online lenders include SmartBiz, OnDeck, Kabbage, Lending Club, and PayPal LoanBuilder. The credit requirements are low, the funds can be in your account instantly, and the application process is swift. Consider that the Kabbage process is 100% automated and only takes 10 minutes to complete. The minimal requirements are 12 months in business and $50,000 in annual revenue to qualify for a line of credit, available instantly.
Business Grants FAQs
How do I get free money to start a business?There is no such thing as free money. If you are a minority group or solving a specific social problem, you may be eligible for a grant program. But the competition is very stiff. While it might be free, you still have to put in the time to locate the correct grants and apply to them.
How do I get a grant for a business?Find the relevant grants on a local, state, or federal database. Research the criteria and submit an application. Make sure you meet the minimum criteria.
How can a woman get a small business grant?In terms of grant applications, women are the number one demographic. There are more grants for women entrepreneurs than any other social category (with the possible exception of non-profits aiming to solve social problems). Obviously, you’ll need to be a female entrepreneur with a unique story to apply for the majority of these grants.
Is grant writing hard?Grant writing is not exactly hard. A more accurate description is that grant writing is specialized. It’s an art that needs to be cultivated. The writing style will have to be polite, to the point, and professional. Many businesses outsource grant writing to specialists.
How do I qualify for a small business grant?Each grant is unique in terms of who can qualify for it. Generally, most grants are geared towards women and minority groups. Many grants are also available for businesses that are looking at social, economic, and environmental development.
Do you have to pay back small business grants?A grant does not have to be repaid. This is the defining feature of a grant. However, you will be held accountable for the spending of the proceeds and will have to report back. You will also have to write some sort of testimonial with regard to the grant process if you qualify.
Finding a grant is easy. There are thousands of them. But finding the right grant is a completely different story. Get out a spreadsheet, make a list of relevant grants, and systematically start applying to them, one by one. It takes a lot of time, but grant applications are now a big aspect of running a small business.
If all of this seems like too much effort, then consider an online lender such as Kabbage or OnDeck. More often than not, you’ll get the cash instantaneously after a 10-minute application. While the money may not be free, you won’t need to work for it, and your chances of success are nearly guaranteed.
Sarah Davis is a business executive specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and international law. She achieved her MBA from Cornell University after completing a legal undergraduate at UC Berkley. Sarah runs her own business consultancy firm in tandem with working alongside the FinImpact team.
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TOPLINE Mark Cuban reached out to minority and women-owned businesses via Twitter on Wednesday in an effort to make sure that these companies can secure their rightful share of the more than $100 billion in PPP loan money still available.
KEY FACTSCuban, whom President Trump named to the "Re-Open America" advisory committee, has recently been critical of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), declaring "it's time to face the fact that PPP didn't work."
The execution of the Paycheck Protection Program, which doled out $525 billion in two rounds, was widely criticized.
According to a survey by Global Strategy Group released earlier this week, just 12% of black and Latino business owners who applied for PPP loans reported receiving what they asked for, compared to 38% of all U.S. small businesses that confirmed they had received the assistance they sought.
The Center For Responsible Lending (CRL) predicted this in early April, stating that roughly 95% of black-owned businesses stood "close to no chance of receiving a PPP loan through a mainstream bank or credit union," due to the historically tenuous relationships between minority-owned companies and banks.
On Wednesday morning, Cuban tweeted to his 7.9 million followers, "If you are a minority or woman owned, or any company that believes you are eligible for a PPP loan, but have not been approved, please post an overview of your status here and I will do my best to connect you to a bank. There is still more than $100B left."
Cuban added, "If you know a business that is in that situation, please help them connect here. There are plenty of banks that want to earn their 5%. Let's connect them," while tagging Jill Castilla, President of a Citizens Bank in Oklahoma, and Vista Bank, a community bank with branches throughout Texas, in the follow-up tweet.
$41,361: That’s the median household income for black homes in America as of 2018, which is $29,101 less than the median household income for whites ($70,642).
Cuban has not ruled out running for president in 2020. "I never would have considered it prior to a month ago, but now things are changing rapidly and dramatically," Cuban told Fox News back in April. "I'm not saying no, but it's not something I'm actively pursuing. I'm just keeping the door open" Then, just last week, Cuban said he still may consider launching a campaign, "if something crazy happens." He added, "I'm kind of running out of time. And my family's still against it, so that's been a mess. But it's been so crazy, right? I can never say never."
The principal obstacle for many minorities in their attempts to secure PPP loans has been their poor relationships with major banks. The PPP program was the first time some black and Latino business owners had ever sought a bank loan and, according to the New York Times NYT, "many banks considered applications only from existing customers; some, like Bank of America BAC, even turned away people who had opened credit cards through other lenders."
When asked what sparked this idea, Cuban quickly pointed to VC investor Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital. Hamilton co-authored an op-ed for Fast Company with Gusto COO Lexi Reese which detailed how Covid-19 has exposed new depths of economic imbalance in America for both employees and small businesses, and how to close the existing funding gap and support business owners. Hamilton made sure he saw the op-ed, which included some alarming data. Cuban told Forbes that Hamilton was the “inspiration” behind Wednesday’s tweets and that “she truly deserves the credit on this.”
Minority business owners are getting shut out from coronavirus relief. Here’s what can help (Fast Company)
Minority-Owned Small Businesses Struggle To Gain Equal Access To PPP Loan Money (Forbes)
Mark Cuban Won't Rule Out Running for President (Newsweek)
Few Minority-Owned Businesses Got Relief Loans They Asked For (New York Times)
Minority-Owned Small Businesses Were Supposed To Get Priority. They May Not Have (NPR)
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Workplace trends are ever-changing. A couple of decades ago, ping pong tables, lounges, and standing desks in the office were basically unheard of. So … what has changed between now and then? The way businesses function.
As times change, companies need to embrace new workplace trends instead of steering clear of them. Business owners: It’s time to welcome workplace trends with open arms.
6 Workplace Trends To Take Advantage Of
Workplace trends not only benefit your employees, but also your business. Use these six workplace trends to turn things around and take employee engagement to the next level at your company (I know you want to).
1. Offering Flexible Work Arrangements
According to one source, 57% of businesses offer flexible work schedules. As time goes on, more employers are saying goodbye to the regular 9-5 shift and hello to other working arrangements and hours.
The word “flexibility” might scare off some employers, but not me. In my 30+ years of entrepreneurial experience, I’ve found that flexibility can be key to attracting and retaining top talent.
Now, flexibility can mean a variety of different things. It doesn’t have to be limited to the time of day an employee works. To incorporate flexible working arrangements at your business, you can:
Offering flexible working arrangements can give employees a better work-life balance to do things like go to a doctor’s appointment or pick up their kid(s) from school. Not to mention, flexibility also helps boost productivity and employee satisfaction.
2. Including Remote Workers More
If you’ve jumped on board the flexible workplace bandwagon, you probably have a few employees that work from home. And let’s face it—some of your remote workers (especially ones that are out-of-state) may feel lonely or experience FOMO (fear of missing out).
To avoid leaving your isolated employees all by their lonesome, include them in as many workplace activities as you can.
At my accounting software and payroll software company, Patriot Software, we try to include our lovely remote workers as much as we possibly can. Whether it’s sending them little goodies and care packages or video chatting them during a meeting or event, we always try to keep our remote workers in the loop. Trust me when I say this: small gestures go a long way.
3. Emphasizing Work-Life Balance
Business owners and employees around the world know how oh-so important a healthy work-life balance is. Without one, you or your employees will likely be stressed, sleep-deprived, and all around exhausted. And as a serial entrepreneur, I can tell you that work plus little to no sleep is not a very good combo.
To prevent burnout and improve productivity, be an advocate for healthy work-life balance. Be the ultimate role model when it comes to juggling work and life. Show employees that they don’t have to work around the clock to be productive. And, let them know their personal lives and mental health don’t have to suffer.
4. Saying Goodbye To Old Office Designs
Take a look around your office. What do you see? Cubicles? Corner offices? Lots of closed doors and blinds? If you said “yes” to one (or all) of these, it’s time to rethink your office’s design.
As workplaces evolve, more companies are doing away with stuffy spaces and embracing open workplaces. At Patriot, our meeting rooms don’t have walls. Instead, they have glass windows. All of our corner offices also have windows. And, they don’t have blinds, so rooms feel more open and welcoming.
In addition to a more open office design, you can also spice up your workplace with things like standing desks, a lounge, and comfy furniture (think bean bag chairs and couches).
Shaking up your business’s office design may seem like a silly strategy. But, it can help foster creativity and collaboration. Not to mention, open office spaces are pretty dang versatile and cost-effective.
5. Focusing On Employee Experience
Your employees are the foundation of your company’s success. Without them, you would struggle to stay afloat in this crazy business world we’re in. And if you want your top employees to stick around for the long-run, you’ve got to focus on giving them the best employee experience out there.
To give your employees a positive employee experience, ensure your workers are happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. Give them an experience they will never forget.
Making sure employee experience is top of the line for your workers can improve your workplace’s culture and employee engagement. Plus, focusing on employee experience in the workplace can help give your employer brand a nice boost.
To give your workers a top-notch experience, consider doing some fun and out-of-the-box activities at work. You can have team-building activities like a laser tag party, a chili cook-off, and an employee potluck lunch (yes, we’ve done all of these activities at my company). The opportunities are honestly endless when it comes to enhancing your employees’ experience and promoting engagement.
6. Increasing Artificial Intelligence (A.k.a. Automation)
In this technology-driven world, there are new things popping up every day that can simplify business owners’ daily tasks and responsibilities. Do you know what this means, fellow business owners? This means more automation and fewer time-wasters.
You have a billion things to do each day. And, I have a hunch that you spend loads of time doing the most basic tasks (e.g., sending emails). By automating some of your tasks, you can save time and get back to the business you love so dearly.
Take it from me: When it comes to automation in the workplace, the more automated tasks, the merrier. You can automate things like your:
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Search, Content and Social Marketer
When it comes to marketing content to local customers, you have to take a unique approach - the tactics that work for big businesses aren’t going to resonate with the target audience in your town. So what do you need to do differently? Here, I’ll discuss a new approach for marketing content to local customers.
Related: 7 Ways to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy
1. Feature local experts in your content.
Most local marketers focus nearly all their content on their business alone, but there are a lot of benefits to also bringing in other local experts related to your niche. Incorporate quotes and interviews with local experts, or find other ways to feature them in your content through collaboration. As long as they’re not your direct competitors, you can work with them to create a mutually beneficial relationship to expand your audience base. Besides, keeping all your content focused on your business alone sets you up for some limitations.
For one, you miss out on the fact that 92 percent of consumers trust third-party recommendations more than brand content. At the same time, sharing content through influencers can increase conversions by three to ten times.
If you’ve taken the time to feature others in your content, it won’t be very difficult to encourage them to share it with their audiences as well.
2. Look for opportunities to boost your local prowess.
One of the most basic marketing tactics to find local customers is by hosting or participating in local events, which I definitely recommend as well. Some options include:
These are not only good networking opportunities to build brand awareness, they’re also great fodder for content creation. Take and share pictures from an event and create blog posts about the experience. Another important way to boost your local prowess through content is by taking advantage of trending news opportunities. Use Google Trends to research what people are talking about in your local area. If there’s a relevant topic related to your niche, you can write about it on your blog. Google favors prominent news in SERPs, so you’re likely to get a boost there for relevance. If you can be considered an expert on a topic, then you can also build local prowess by offering quotes to journalists for news stories. Just sign up for Help A Reporter Out (HARO). Journalists post queries on this platform that you can respond to; getting you and your brand in the news.
Related: The Five "Knows" To Public Relations Prowess
3. Focus heavily on encouraging reviews.
This is an important strategy for businesses of any size, but positive reviews are even more crucial for local business success. If you’re working on building your local SEO, the first step is getting set up on Google My Business. This makes it possible for you to show up in Google’s specialized local search results. Your reviews appear prominently within those results.
This user-generated content is going to have a major impact on whether people decide to visit your business’s website from searches. Considering that 74 percent of people primarily use portals like Google to find local businesses, this is an area you can’t ignore. Additonally, Google reviews arent' the only areas that you on which you should target your focus. Just as endorsements from influencers boost your credibility, reviews from happy customers on review sites - your website and search engines - will help draw in more customers.
Related: The Cost (and Payoff) of Investing in Social Media - Social Media ...
4. Take advantage of paid social mediaWhen many small businesses plan their marketing budgets, they write off paid social media as a content distribution option that’s out of their means. However, there are a few points that demonstrate how the strategy is actually completely essential for your business. For one - organic engagement on social media is falling. It has been on Facebook for a while, and not coincidentally, this began around the time the platform started offering paid content distribution options.
It’s no mystery why Facebook, Twitter, and others want to encourage brands to use their paid options; they favor those over organic posts. Effective social media marketing is no longer free. Another important point is that paid social media is really quite affordable, even for small businesses. All the platforms have small minimum advertising investments and give you complete control over how much you’re willing to spend for impressions, engagement, clicks, etc. These platforms have a plethora of super-specific demographic information. They put the most relevant promoted posts in front of the right audience. Just take a look at what Facebook Audience Insights can tell you about your target audience based on location, age, interests, Facebook behavior, purchasing behavior, and more. A lot of what makes content great doesn’t have to do with business type. But if you want to be optimally effective at content marketing to local customers, there are some strategies you should follow that apply to your unique situation. Take advantage of the advice in this post to jumpstart your efforts to engage with local customers effectively.
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Arun Shastri Contributor
Arun is a leader of ZS’s analytics practice and works with clients across industries. His focus is on AI: experimentation, scaling, adoption and ethics.
After the pandemic, many believe that automation will accelerate—and for good reason: In the three recessions that have occurred over the past 30 years, 88% of job losses took place in highly automatable occupations. We’re facing the twin realities of potentially the worst recession in generations and a mature automation technology that is ripe for deployment. Lost revenue means leaner workforces. Lean workforces drive the need for automation so that smaller teams can accomplish more with fewer people. For example, we’ve been seeing automation in call centers for years now. This will surely accelerate. In a cruel irony, the state of Texas recently acquired chatbots to handle inquiries to an overwhelmed unemployment system. I can only imagine how it feels to call the number and be met with a machine doing what was historically a human’s job. But given how lean the team was and how high the call volume was, the state felt it had no choice.
As you respond to this crisis and create a road map to your future, be wary of only planning for cost-cutting via automation. Increasing industrial or business process automation makes sense, but your business’s future should also feature AI prominently, which means you must first look to scale AI across the enterprise. Before the pandemic, companies were turning to AI to drive growth and profitability, but they were largely struggling to scale their experiments across the enterprise. Now is the time to repair those struggles. Second, find ways to leverage AI to respond to the tailwinds that the pandemic will likely leave behind. Give yourself the time to think through impending market forces that may require you to rethink key aspects of your business processes.
Scaling AI solutions
Going forward, it won’t be enough to think innovatively; you’ll also need to turn your ideas into real, functioning solutions. In an Accenture report that surveyed 1,500 C-suite executives in 16 industries, 76% of respondents said they were struggling to scale the technology across their businesses. Only 5% of more than 200 manufacturers surveyed by the MAPI Foundation said they have a clearly defined strategy for AI. I’ve seen many reasons for these struggles, including infrastructure requirements, cross-functional collaboration challenges, and a lack of standardization and re-usability of tools across use cases. To overcome stumbling blocks and plan for the unique challenges ahead, focus your AI strategy around these five actions:
Today In: AI
1. Define the problem. Take a consultative approach to identifying business needs, solving the right set of problems and focusing on the ones that can drive meaningful value at scale. At times, this may require revisiting hypotheses or making meaningful trade-offs between enhancing existing solutions and exploring new ones. A sales organization, for example, might focus its attention on the loss of accounts, or churn, as acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining existing ones. Defining churn is the first and most important stage. Could AI help you predict customer attrition by identifying risk factors such as reduced customer consumption or engagement?
2. Pay attention to building the right data pipeline. Your AI is only as good as the data that you provide to it. Scaled solutions require data that will continuously inform new outcomes. You need to be thoughtful about how and when data will refresh, always maintain quality and ensure you can create the most relevant features. In keeping with the sales example, data that could enhance predictions include account characteristics, user patterns, sales conversations and more.
3. Increase the sophistication of your modeling. Revisit the model after the design phase and consider whether all features are still relevant, whether new models could be assembled to improve outcomes, and when and how to retrain them.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of explainability and transparency. AI can be critical to decision-making, but you must be able to explain its choices to whomever asks. You need to ensure that explanations are relevant for the business, balance specificity with simplicity and frequently communicate the impact to gain buy-in from all levels of the organization. A salesperson, for example, would want to know why an account was flagged as a potential candidate for churn and what she could do to address it. Providing those explanations is important to build trust and adoption.
5. Monitor the solutions continuously after deployment. Deploying the solution for the first time may feel like half of the battle, but consistently monitoring its reliability is critical. Look for ways to identify if the algorithms are working as intended, manage and triage errors, and prevent model biases by being proactive and helping your data science teams avoid ad hoc and manual efforts. In a sales organization, you could incorporate feedback from reps that leverage AI recommendations to improve the predictions that the model is making.
Much of the “disruptor class” will have been set back by the virus, but others are still working in their garages with low or no overhead to slow their efforts. Others will be born from the crisis. Venmo, Uber, WhatsApp, Groupon and Instagram all sprang from the ashes of the Great Recession. The world was already in a rapid state of change before COVID-19. In many ways, we don’t yet know how we’ll be impacted by the pandemic, but there are some trends that we know are likely to accelerate and will become more important than ever. We should prepare for them now.
Work from home is a new normal. Tata Consultancy Services, India’s largest IT services firm, has announced a new initiative called “25/25.” By the year 2025, no more than 25% of its workforce (448,000 globally) will be expected to work in its offices. The remaining are expected to work from home. Months spent sheltering in place will lead to more comfort with all forms of digital consumption. For example, we’re seeing telehealth emerge as a viable alternative to visiting the doctor’s office. When things move forward again, we can be certain that some of these experiments will lead to permanent change.
Personalization is likely to become more important than ever. Your consumers are much less willing to listen to or appreciate thoughtless outreach. A lack of personalization could lead to frustration and resentment. Finding ways to reach consumers is key to winning their trust and business. AI can help a retailer learn more about a customer’s needs, better understand her wants, and design a message and an offer that resonates for her.
Traditional roles are likely to be disrupted in meaningful ways and, again, AI can help. Field sales roles will likely remain changed for the foreseeable future. Given that customers will look to digital channels to consume information, there will be less travel for sales representatives and therefore a greater number of customers that can be effectively managed. AI is the perfect tool to help us achieve such scale as it can orchestrate actions across channels and gather intelligence on the customers.
Organizations will have to adapt and rethink their processes and offers—instead of simply turning to automation to thrive in this new reality. Further, don’t simply use AI to help you do business as usual. Treat AI as architecture, not a collection of features. With AI, you have the capacity to re-imagine how you do business entirely. If grocery stores innovated within the bounds of their existing business model, they’d add AI features like an expensive system that did the work of a cashier. Companies like Amazon, however, are leveraging AI to re-imagine how the checkout process works by doing away with that step entirely. Failing to have an architecture mindset can make you vulnerable to disruptors as well as poor investments that quickly become obsolete. (I hope no one invested in robot cashiers.)
We are living in unprecedented times, so we must be deliberate as we navigate through them and keep investing in AI. Continue to automate where feasible but don’t stop there. Continue to focus on bringing your innovations from proof of concept to scale and adapt your business to the new realities that will spawn countless disruptions and disruptors. Doing so may be a matter of business survival.
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Executives need to look beyond narrow accessibility issues, and realise diversity is good for society and business
Caroline Casey is the founder of The Valuable 500, a business initiative working to increase disability inclusion.
Inclusion is something that is talked about widely and is slowly becoming a priority in the business world, but disability is seldom included in the conversation.
One reason for this is that 80% of disabilities are invisible, which can create an out of sight out of mind mentality.
While there have been important accomplishments in relation to disability awareness, accessibility and inclusion, the issue is still seen by much of the business community as a niche or the domain of charity or welfare programmes, meaning many businesses fail to include disabled people at the most basic level.
Just recently, Dominos Pizza was defeated in a U.S. Supreme Court case when a blind customer sued the fast food chain on the grounds that its website was not accessible to those with impaired vision.
Disability is a wide-ranging topic, but when business leaders hear about ‘disability performance’, they often think narrowly: about providing accessible toilets or hiring people with disabilities to fill targeted vacancies. Those are important endeavours, but the inclusion agenda is a lot bigger than that.
When businesses commit fully to disability inclusion, they often see profits, performance and innovation rise. And the innovations that emerge from this behaviour can enrich the rest of the world.
We know that if business takes a lead on this issue, society and government will follow. In other words, inclusive businesses can build inclusive societies.
Ensuring inclusion for disabled people not only benefits those with a disability. It benefits brands, who can access an $8 trillion market globally, and a consumer base the size of the United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan combined.
Social enterprises and charities like Pluss, Clarity and UnLtd are doing a great job of bringing those with disabilities into the workforce and businesses are increasingly designing for disabled people.
There are notable examples of brilliant brands whose philosophy has inclusivity at its core, which has led to industry leading innovation and significant business growth – Nike, Gilette, Mars, and Microsoft come to mind.
Tech giant Apple became the first trillion dollar public company because it put user centricity and simplicity - and therefore, inclusive design - at the heart of its creative ethos. Apple approached design as a way to remove barriers for people and gained huge market share as a result, meeting the needs of more people than ever before.
The Ford Focus car was designed with older people in mind – with larger heater controls for easy use - but it is bought by many families who just want a simple, comfortable car.
Similarly, the Eone Bradley braille watch was designed for blind people but the majority of sales go to business people who want to surreptitiously check the time in meetings.
Until all big businesses start to understand the economic, creative value and opportunity they are missing out on, our progress towards a fully inclusive society will be slow and stagnant. With ageing populations in many major economies, businesses cannot achieve sustainable growth without making disability inclusion a priority.
As with any organisational culture change it needs to start from the top. In social enterprises this is easier, as they are mission-focused, while in large businesses it is crucial that accessibility is recognised as an issue at board level.
By accessibility I am not merely talking about wheelchair ramps or tokenistic inclusion quotas; working environments must be totally redesigned with accessibility and inclusion at their centre.
The first step in that process involves companies embracing inclusivity and serving the needs of all their employees and their customers. We need to create an environment where people can thrive.
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As a business leader, it’s difficult to avoid getting caught up in the increasingly dire reports regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on businesses. While some businesses such as streaming services and teleconferencing platforms are thriving, others in the travel and in-person entertainment industries are feeling the pinch.
Businesses in every state are feeling effects. Millions of workers in America have filed for unemployment since mid-March, and weekly claims show no sign of slowing down soon as businesses deal with changes in supply and demand.
This information is important, of course. You’re operating in unprecedented times, and it’s critical to stay up-to-date on the state of the economy so you can make decisions about how to move your business forward. But it can be disheartening to take in only the tough news without anything to balance it out.
That’s why I’m thrilled to bring you some light in the darkness: stories of five businesses that have successfully altered course to help their clients, fill new needs, and thrive amid uncertainty. These companies have adapted to restrictions and changes necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. Learning from their experiences can help your business come out stronger than ever on the other side of this crisis.
1. CareSignal creates a new service line to provide COVID-19 education.
As organizations across the country began to cancel their 2020 events, team members at scalable remote patient monitoring platform CareSignal realized they wouldn’t be able to attend some of the events that helped fuel their business. But instead of throwing in the towel, they recognized that healthcare facilities faced significant strain and needed a solution.
In just one weekend, the team put together a new service line, COVID Companion, to fill that need. COVID Companion is a text-message based program that helps get location-based outbreak resources as well as CDC guidelines to communities and patients. CareSignal prepared the program to be implemented immediately — for free — at any health system or payer in the United States.
What can your business do to thrive? Assess your customers’ needs, shift your focus toward existing service lines that meet them, and establish new offerings to fill in any gaps.
2. Horderly goes digital to provide virtual services.
Social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions make it virtually impossible for the professional organizers at Horderly to make house calls. Co-owner Fillip Hord said the company lost hundreds of work hours in just a few days. But that doesn’t mean customers don’t need their services. For some, spending all day at home means spending a lot more time wishing a space were better organized.
So Horderly set out to make some changes. Their adjustments included introducing a virtual organizing service with multiple packages to help customers get organized, stay sane, and keep their homes clean.
What can your business do to thrive? Find ways to provide value to your customers through digital platforms when face-to-face meetings aren’t an option.
3. Weird Enough Productions gives customers something for free.
Weird Enough Productions brings empowering stories of diverse characters to schools through performances and comics. With schools closed, the company needed to get creative in order to connect students with their resources.
To help support the teachers suddenly forced to develop virtual lessons for their students to complete from home, Weird Enough Productions made its platform Get Media Lit and accompanying lessons free for educators. The organization also released every issue of one of its comics for free to give students access to its diverse stories.
What can your business do to thrive? Building some goodwill with your customers now can go a long way later. Find a way to give your customers a valuable resource or service for free and stay in touch about opportunities for them to purchase other services later.
4. Piroshky Piroshky expands delivery services and connects with customers.
Olga Sagan, owner of Pike Place Market bakery Piroshky Piroshky, has stepped up to help other business owners in the iconic Seattle market stay afloat. Her bakery already had a delivery service, so she expanded her website and delivery capabilities to include other businesses in the market.
The site started racking up visitors very quickly, and dozens of businesses are on the waiting list to snag a listing on the site. In the spirit of helping out her community, she’s not charging her fellow business owners for participation.
What can your business do to thrive? Get a little help from a friend and give a little help where you can. Collaborate with other small businesses — especially those with offerings that complement yours — to help boost sales for both of you.
5. Tultex redirects apparel production to create face masks.
Apparel brand Tultex has a history of adapting to nationwide needs. During World War II, the company produced garments for the U.S. military. And today, the company has pivoted its production strategy to supply up to 2 million washable face masks per week primarily to professionals in the healthcare industry. Some will even be available to consumers.
“When we heard the countless stories of healthcare professionals working with patients without masks or desperately trying to reuse them, we knew we had to step in and help,” said TSC Apparel CEO Dave Klotter. “Our social responsibility is to work to provide solutions and keep our TSC associates working.”
What can your business do to thrive? If you have the materials and capabilities to do so, design and produce products needed in today’s marketplace.
These businesses offer heartwarming examples of what a dedicated team can do in response to a crisis. Use their stories as inspiration for your company’s next steps. Remind yourself and your team that, with some determination and hard work, you can do great things even when you’re unsure what the future holds. Together, you can do more than survive the coming months. You can thrive.
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By Jin Kang Kock
While essential businesses have been fortunate enough to continue operating, the coronavirus pandemic has put extra strain on top of an already struggling retail industry.
Even before the virus, the emergence of online shopping threatened the livelihood of business owners. Combined with the pandemic-level impact of the coronavirus, opportunities for business seem bleak.
According to a report by the US Census Bureau, clothing stores, furniture stores, and F&B providers suffered the biggest losses while the food and beverage stores are seeing the biggest rise in monthly sales.
For retailers to continue surviving, technology is no longer a luxury, it’s a need.
Live Occupancy Counting
In an effort to flatten the curve, governments worldwide put social distancing policies. in place to control the number of customers in retail outlets, such as groceries, pharmacies, fuel stations and banks.
In response, tech companies specialized in people counting are rising to the demand of businesses. Normally used to track visitor counts and measure store performances, these IoT devices have been repurposed to monitor the number of customers in-store at any given moment.
The people counter technology is simple, yet effective. One sensor at each entrance and exit and the device will automatically collect data and inform store managers whenever there is a breach in the. occupancy threshold.
Several of the benefits that come with this technology include:
While people counting technology isn’t a new innovation by any means, it has evolved into becoming a necessary IoT device for any retail business.
Supply Chain Management
Apart from the sexy smart home devices, IoT is known for, it’s also revolutionizing the supply chain system. In more ways than others, IoT’s contribution to the retail and manufacturing industry is greater though it might be subtler.
Below are some key aspects of how and why retailers should pay attention to IoT especially during a pandemic:
Delivery IoT devices attached to the storage container will allow businesses to accurately track the speed and location of the goods, and the time of its arrival, which allows them to:
Integrate this data into their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to update their stocks’ availability.
Predict for their customers when the next batch of goods will be available without them leaving their homes and risking infection. This is particularly important for items in high demand and low quantity such as pharmacies selling medical masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves.
IoT sensors can monitor every parameter in the storage facility including temperature, humidity, light intensity, and more, which helps:
Optimize their storage situation to save costs and prevent spoilage.
Business owners monitor the quality and prevent reshipments for deliveries. This is particularly important for perishable goods such as raw meats, fish, and vegetables.
inventory management technology such as smart shelves coupled with RFID tags can provide retail managements real-time insight into the stock level for SKU, which can save labor costs by avoiding unnecessary inventory checking and prevent any unforeseen stockout particularly during a pandemic lockdown.
conducted by Deloitte shows that a staggering 74% of businesses experienced an increase in revenue as well. As a whole, there are more reasons than ever for businesses to integrate IoT technology into their supply chain management. The potential to increase customer satisfaction while preventing revenue losses is a paradigm shift worth the risk at the very least.
Imagine passing around a piece of white paper to a group of random people on a day-to-day basis. A week later, that piece of paper would be lucky if it isn’t torn, creased or stained.
That piece of paper is what we pass it around every time we make a transaction.
Banknotes and coins are notorious for being one of the dirtiest items anyone can hold. Research has found that there are convenient ways to pass viruses and bacterias such as E. coli and salmonella. Speaking of diseases, the COVID-19 virus happens to also survive on surfaces from between a few hours to several days. All it takes for an infected carrier to cough or sneeze around a banknote, and you’ve unknowingly gotten yourself a contaminated piece of paper.
With the pandemic, individuals around the world are paying greater attention to the importance of proper personal hygiene in their daily lives, including their retail experiences. Here’s where technology steps in and gives business owners a helping hand.
Since the ’90s, contactless payment has been popularized in gas stations, public transports, and restaurants. Since then, its application has evolved in 2011 with the introduction of near-field communication(NFC)-enabled payment by Google and Android. Nowadays, the options for contactless payment comes in the form of QR codes, NFC, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
At this stage, the push for contactless payment is more necessary than ever. The ability to make payments while minimizing contact will benefit consumers concerned about health and safety. For businesses, it’ll remove friction during a transaction, increase customer satisfaction, and improve transaction security with fewer fraud losses.
Moving forward, we can also expect the next iteration of contactless payment with its integration with the IoT industry, known as the Internet of Payments (IoP). Here are some examples:
The retail industry will always play a vital role in the economy. While the coronavirus has severely impacted its status, the industry will need to continue innovating in order to survive. As for now, the next step forward is the adoption of IoT in different aspects of business, whether that is in the customer-side, or the management-side. Regardless, the incorporation of IoT is no longer an option, but rather a necessity.
Read more from IoT for all
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, IBM's CEO, Thomas Watson, proved a point that today's executives should consider. In the worst of times, bravely bucking pressure to lay off workers and instead investing in the business can tee up explosive growth later.
Reports about layoff strategies amid the COVID-19 crisis range wildly. PwC released a survey in April saying that 32% of companies expect to lay off workers in the next month. The White House said unemployment could hit 20% by June. And more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs during the month of April, according to Friday's jobs report.
Yet some big tech companies – Cisco, Nvidia, ServiceNow – have pledged to avoid layoffs. Some are even giving raises. It would be easy for investors to think those CEOs are delusional.
But IBM's story from the 1930s suggests they may not be. Watson's bet nearly destroyed IBM, yet ultimately launched it into nearly 50 years of domination of its category.
Dealing with a crash
The US economy in the first years of the Depression was in terrible shape. GDP contracted by 8% in 1930 and another 7% in 1931. More than 3,000 banks failed. Unemployment pushed toward 20% and soup lines stretched around blocks.
IBM was not huge or well-known at the time, though it had created the then-new category of "data processing." It made time clocks and tabulating machines – electro-mechanical punch card predecessors to computers – that helped big companies manage information. The market for such products had plunged by half in the Depression. Wages dipped so low, hiring an ocean of clerks to handle data was no more expensive than getting a machine to do it.
I know Watson's story well: 20 years ago, I wrote his biography after sifting through hundreds of boxes of his personal papers and transcripts of meetings. Watson knew the facts about the broken economy. But the grim outlook didn't fit his plan. His words intentionally reflected optimism. "I see no signs of a severe recession," Watson told a journalist for the April 1, 1930, issue of Forbes. "As a matter of fact, I think 1930 will end up as a very good year."
Watson's actions backed up his words. He made two pledges: he would keep the factories running and lay off no one; and he would increase spending on research and development.
First, the factories. Watson reasoned that the need for IBM machines was so great, if businesses put off buying them now, certainly they'd buy a lot of them when the economy picked up. He wanted IBM to be ready to take advantage of that demand. So he kept the factories building machines and parts, stockpiling the products in warehouses. From 1929 to 1932, IBM actually increased production capacity by one-third.
As the Depression wore on, Watson's greatest risk was running out of time. If IBM's revenue continued to falter past 1933, the burden of running the factories and holding inventory would threaten financial stability. In one meeting, Watson said to his executives about continuing to make machine parts:
"Conditions in this country are going to be better, our sales force is going to get stronger, and later on we are going to be able to do more business. I will take my chances on selling enough machines later to absorb those parts."
And then, on January 12, 1932, Watson announced that IBM would spend $1 million – nearly 6% of IBM's total annual revenue – to build a world-class corporate research center in Endicott, N.Y. He set his engineers loose and throughout the 1930s IBM cranked out new products and innovations, finally getting its technology well ahead of competitor Remington Rand and any other potential challengers in the category.
Soon, though, Watson's gamble on manufacturing and research looked disastrous. The company was running out of cash. In 1932, IBM's stock fell to 1921 levels. The board of directors discussed ousting Watson, but put it off. As the late management guru Peter Drucker told me in 2000, Watson "didn't know how close he'd come to collapse."
No one foresaw the coming impact of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal economic stimulus plan. FDR was elected president in 1932. As part of the New Deal, on August 14, 1935, Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.
No single flourish of a pen had ever created such a gigantic information processing problem. The act meant that every business had to track every employee's hours, wages, and the amount that must be paid to Social Security. Then the government had to process all those millions of reports, track the money, and send checks to those who should get them.
Overnight, demand for tabulating machines soared. An officer of the store chain Woolworth's told IBM that keeping records for Social Security was going to cost the company $250,000 a year (the equivalent of about $5 million today). Businesses that didn't have machines wanted them. The government needed them by the boatload.
Only one company could meet the demand. IBM had warehouses full of machines and parts and accessories, and it could immediately make more because its factories were up and running. Because IBM had been funding research and introducing new products, it had better, faster, more reliable machines than any other company. IBM won the contract to do all of the New Deal's accounting.
This combination of events became IBM's slingshot. Revenue jumped from $19 million in 1934 to $31 million in 1937. It would climb unabated for the next 45 years as IBM dominated the data processing industry.
Drucker said he'd asked Watson (the two knew each other) if he had anticipated the Social Security Act. Of course, the act was debated and written about well before it passed. But Watson said he had no idea it would impose such a record-keeping burden on business and the government. No one did – otherwise Congress may never have passed the act.
Watson's recipe for success: one part daring; one part luck; and one part hard work to be ready when the luck kicked in.
So what does that say to Uber, which just laid off 14% of its employees, or Airbnb, which cut 25%, or any company looking to save money by slashing R&D?
The COVID crisis is accelerating change in business and society. Healthcare, travel, education, retail, food, and other huge sectors are getting reinvented. While the economic downturn is tragic for millions of workers and small businesses, great change also opens up great new opportunities.
Watson showed that when business leaders have the guts to prepare to jump on those opportunities while competitors hunker down and hope for the best, a touch of luck could tee up a long winning streak.
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By Rita Beamish
The rural Central Valley city of Atwater has declared itself a “sanctuary city” for businesses and churches that want to reopen in defiance of the California shelter-in-place policy aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
The City Council heard from a parade of business owners, pastors and residents on Friday who described pandemic-related hardships. Many insisted they could be responsible and keep the Merced County community safe by following safe practices like wearing face masks and keeping social distance.
A tearful Donald Covington, president of the Old Town Atwater Association, said businesses need to get up and running. “People are starving. Two family members have two small businesses, with small children and no income,” he added. “We need to do this today.”
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A 16.4 percent sales decline in April may signal the bottom for retailers, but the climb back will be hard, and some companies may not make it.
The coronavirus pandemic dealt another crushing blow to retailers in April. Now the question is what the sector will look like as the economy reopens — and how much permanent damage has been inflicted.
Retail sales fell 16.4 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Friday, by far the largest monthly drop on record. That followed an 8.3 percent drop in March, the previous record. Total sales for April, which include retail purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, were the lowest since 2012, even without accounting for inflation.
Some of the declines in individual categories were staggering. Restaurants and bars lost half their business over two months. At furniture and home furnishings stores, sales were off by two-thirds. At clothing stores, the two-month decline was 89 percent. Increased sales from online retailers didn’t come close to offsetting the downturn elsewhere.
April could prove to be the bottom for sales. The March figures were helped in part by panic buying, and stores were generally open for the first half of the month. Most states have begun to lift barriers to commerce and movement, and many economists expect spending to rise in May as people venture out.
But in contrast to the nearly vertical drop, any rebound is likely to be gradual. Big states like New York and California remain largely under lockdown, and businesses face significant restrictions elsewhere. Even as businesses reopen, there is no guarantee that customers will return in numbers previously seen.
And the financial system may be an added source of vulnerability as the economic downturn places strains on households and businesses, the Federal Reserve said Friday.
“It’s probably fair to say the worst is over in terms of a collapse, unless there are waves of new outbreaks,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. macro strategist for TD Securities. “But how fast does it come back? The short answer is none of us really know.”
The downturn appears to have left lasting scars on a retail industry that was already struggling. J. Crew and Neiman Marcus have filed for bankruptcy protection, followed Friday by J.C. Penney, a 118-year-old chain with more than 800 stores and nearly 85,000 employees.
Surveys show that many Americans still fear the virus and are wary of crowded places. Epidemiologists and public health officials say those concerns are well founded: Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, told a Senate committee this week that rushing back to normal life could “trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control.”
Even if Americans feel comfortable returning to stores, they may not have as much money to spend, since millions have lost their jobs.
“Consumers are definitely feeling anxious about the future,” said Jay Sole, a retail analyst at UBS. “Whether it’s the pandemic, which is making people hesitant to go out in public to crowded places, or they’re worried about their jobs or the state of the economy going forward, people’s willingness to spend has declined.”
The pressure is not limited to big-name companies. In a survey released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, nearly 90 percent of small retailers reported being hurt by the pandemic, and few said they expected a quick rebound. A third said they thought it would take more than six months for business to return to normal, and 6.6 percent said they did not expect a full recovery.
The plunge in sales, especially in areas like clothing, has shown how reliant many retailers have remained on physical outposts, even as the internet has upended the shopping landscape. J. Crew said in its bankruptcy filing that it expected to lose almost $900 million in sales because of the temporary store closings. The retailer’s most recent annual sales were about $2.5 billion.
Mr. Sole anticipates 100,000 store closings by 2025 as the pandemic accelerates the shift to online sales, according to a recent report, with the biggest cuts in apparel, consumer electronics, home furnishings and groceries.
The pandemic has forced retailers to quickly adapt to a fully digital environment and speed up some investments that may have otherwise taken place over several years, said Joel Bines, managing director at AlixPartners, a consultancy and restructuring firm. That goes beyond their website operations to online ordering for curbside and store pickup, appointment shopping, partnerships with Instacart or Postmates, and other initiatives, he said.
“Anything that puts digital into the transaction — that acceleration is a direct result of this,” Mr. Bines said.
Still, for all the grim economic news, there are hints of a rebound as retailers race to resume business with masked employees, plexiglass guards and hand-sanitizer stations. Macy’s and Gap Inc. are among retailers that have announced aggressive plans to reopen stores in coming weeks, as has the Simon Property Group, the nation’s biggest mall operator.
Data from Placer.ai, a company that uses mobile phone data to analyze foot traffic, shows that activity has picked up, although it is not close to levels before the pandemic.
“There are so many unknowns still, but we’re definitely seeing things trending back toward normal,” said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president for marketing for Placer.ai. “There’s a potential light at the end of the tunnel.”
Some companies are easing into the reopening. American Eagle Outfitters, the teen retailer that also owns the underwear chain Aerie, hired a medical director in mid-March to advise it on bringing employees back to its stores and Pittsburgh headquarters, and has reopened more than 200 locations this month. The company has viewed online purchasing and pickups at stores or outside malls as a good transition for consumers wary of the full-on mall experience, said Andrew McLean, the company’s chief commercial officer.
Continue reading the main story
“We’re finding that’s a great gateway into retailing for consumers who might want to get out and see the mall but aren’t necessarily there yet from a safety standpoint,” he said.
The retail collapse is both a result of the economic crisis and a major contributor to it. Plunging sales mean less tax revenue for cities and states, delayed rent payments for landlords, and lost business for manufacturers, trucking companies and thousands of other businesses. More than anything, it means lost jobs: The nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, after health care, the retail industry cut 2.1 million jobs in April.
Angela Sherbanee was caught in the first wave of layoffs. She worked at Dylan’s Candy Bar inside the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut; the casino closed in mid-March, and the store along with it. She has been out of work for close to two months.
“It’s very scary right now because I don’t know how the casino is going to open back up,” she said.
Ms. Sherbanee, 55, is technically on furlough. But she is skeptical she will be able to return to work soon, if at all. One of her daughters, a college student who worked part time at a Levi’s outlet inside a different casino, has been told that her own furlough will turn into a layoff at the end of the month. The only member of the family who is working is her younger daughter, a high school senior employed at a pizzeria, where business is booming amid the lockdown.
“Who would’ve thought that the 18-year-old who’s working at the pizza place is an essential worker?” Ms. Sherbanee said.
The drop in consumer spending might have been even steeper had it not been for the trillions of dollars in emergency funding approved by Congress. Credit and debit card transaction data analyzed by economists at Harvard and Brown Universities shows a significant increase in spending in mid-April, when $1,200 stimulus checks began arriving in bank accounts.
Continue reading the main story“That’s the stimulus doing what it’s intended to do, providing a little bit of a lift to households,” said Robert Rosener, senior U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley.
Expanded unemployment benefits have helped soften the blow for workers who have lost jobs — at least those who have been able to file for benefits. Researchers at the Brookings Institution estimated this week that unemployment insurance replaced half of lost wages in April.
For Laura Campbell, a manager at Half Price Books in Renton, Wash., being laid off was an emotional blow but not, at least in the short term, a financial one. Because of the extra $600 per week being paid to unemployed workers right now, Mx. Campbell — who uses the gender-neutral title “Mx.” and plural pronouns — is making more than the $16.05 hourly wage at the bookstore.
“I have been able to pay off two credit cards,” they said.
Still, the experience has exacerbated Mx. Campbell’s longstanding concerns about the future of retail. Even before the pandemic, workers often asked one another how long the business could continue in the Amazon era. And while not expecting physical retail to disappear overnight, Mx. Campbell doesn’t plan to wait to find out: They will start a new job, at a local tech company at the end of the month.
Ben Casselman writes about economics, with a particular focus on stories involving data. He previously reported for FiveThirtyEight and The Wall Street Journal. @bencasselman • Facebook
Sapna Maheshwari covers retail. She has won reporting awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and the Newswomen’s Club of New York and was on Time’s list of “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2014.” @sapna • Facebook
A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2020, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Collapse In Sales Is The Worst Ever For U.S. Retailers.
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POST WRITTEN BY
Dr. Eric George
Eric George, MD, is the Founder and CEO of ERG Enterprises and a nationally recognized thought leader on entrepreneurship and investing
When it comes to the growth of small businesses, nothing could be more important than the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors. Investors have what entrepreneurs need: capital and know-how (as I've found that many are or once were successful entrepreneurs themselves). On the other hand, entrepreneurs have what investors want: a vehicle that offers the potential for a return.
In theory, this relationship works beautifully. These separate entities share common and joint interests: growth of the business. Yet theory rarely plays out in practice. What should spur collaboration instead often creates turmoil. What should conduce transparency and regular communication instead stifles it. The entrepreneur-investor marriage is one that can end in divorce, an ending that looks dramatically bleaker than its prospects during the honeymoon phase.
And the reason? I believe it has everything to do with trust — or the lack thereof.
What causes a lack of trust?
Trust is a social resource that, when leveraged, can empower teams and organizations to achieve the remarkable. Trust fuels collaboration, inspires innovation and defies the improbable. Yet when you look at the entrepreneur-investor marriage today, it remains in scarce supply. And that’s because the current system in which entrepreneurs and investors coexist is designed to erode trust rather than engender it. And that erosion occurs in cycles that follow a common narrative.
Entrepreneurs often set wild expectations in their pitches to investors, including revenue that's off the charts, an exit in two to three years, a high and near-guaranteed return, etc. Then the first quarter passes, and forecasts are way off. Entrepreneurs make excuses, and they talk about positive developments that have only tangential relevance to the bottom line. Trust erodes just a little bit.
Then the next quarter comes and goes, and the same scene repeats: Forecasts are missed. Excuses are made. Positive developments become the focus. Trust erodes a little bit more.
Quarter after quarter, this cycle continues for years. By the end, you have a relationship enveloped in mistrust and misrepresentation. Eventually, it passes a point of no return. Entrepreneurs lose the most accessible and efficient source of capital when they need reinvestment. Investors write off these businesses as failures, even though they stand a better chance of generating a return than startups with no record of success. This vicious cycle of trust erosion remains the reason many businesses fail or never reach their potential.
Building trust starts with setting realistic expectations.
But imagine a different process that I argue is not far-fetched and is quite possible. It starts with investors and entrepreneurs becoming transparent about the concept of trust and the factors that erode it. For investors, this new model would call for setting realistic expectations with yourself and then entrepreneurs. Investing in any business is a marathon. Rarely will you see a return in two to three years, despite nearly all pitch decks making this promise.
After you become honest with yourself, share the same set of expectations with entrepreneurs. You’re not expecting hockey-stick growth, but sustainable results that will eventually lead to a return. And the sustainable part depends on a transparent, open and communicative relationship. By setting these expectations from the start, you free the business and entrepreneur to pursue a natural course of growth, one free of and unhindered by falsehoods and misrepresentations.
For entrepreneurs, they, too, must be open and honest, starting with themselves. That means accepting that their company is likely not the next Facebook. Once entrepreneurs become honest with themselves, they can begin to understand the longevity needed to win and start adopting the sustainable practices that will get them there. In other words, they’ll begin to understand the dangers of building a business focused solely on the speed and velocity of growth. Instead, they can focus on adopting the methodical practices that create enterprise value. Suddenly, planning takes precedence over action. The long-term view materializes and coincides with a focus on the short-term.
Improving the investor-entrepreneur relationship is possible.
It’s not sexy to talk about trust. It certainly isn’t as inspiring as hearing entrepreneurs talk through PowerPoint slides that depict rapid growth. Nor is it as exciting as preaching the get-rich-quick prospects of your company to a room of salivating investors. But here’s the thing: Business isn’t supposed to be sexy. Business is supposed to be smart, and the smartest move is to set expectations destined to preserve trust rather than lose it.
And it can be done. I’ve applied this style of expectation-setting as an entrepreneur and investor. As an entrepreneur, I’ve focused on building relationships based on transparency and honesty. For instance, I made the perceived mistake of telling a room full of investors that our company wouldn’t achieve the rapid growth promised by other startups. I told them they wouldn’t see a return in three years, but more realistically five.
I lost some potential investors as a result, but I also earned others who were more patient, understanding and invested in our success. These were individuals who trusted me because I hadn’t sold them on a promise I couldn’t keep. And our business exited as planned. I attributed our success to the healthy relationship we managed to foster and sustain with our investor base.
And as an investor, I’ve also continued to reinvest in our portfolio companies that are beyond the startup phase and no longer bring the intrigue of being new. This reinvestment is not only capital, but also guidance and mentoring, which I believe remains the biggest untapped resource in the entrepreneur-investor marriage. Many investors have exited their businesses and know the challenges and successes that go with the terrain. Yet few entrepreneurs and investors capitalize on this all-important asset.
From my perspective, we can start building better businesses, jobs and an economy by fixing the relationship between investors and entrepreneurs. But it will take a new approach where both sides adopt a mindset of “we” versus “me.” It’s not “How can I benefit the most?” but “What can we accomplish by working together?”
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?
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How do you call attention to your business during this unprecedented time? By helping those in need.
If you are not in businesses such as pharmaceuticals, grocery store supply chains or psychotherapy, you’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to market your business in the time of the COVID-19 crisis.
As a business consultant, I asked myself that very question. At first, I couldn't think of anything, but then someone reached out to me and said, “Didn't you teach entrepreneurship in high schools? Kids and schools are desperate for interesting content online right now. How long would it take for you to set up online entrepreneurship training for high school students?”
I told him it would take just a couple of days and be completely free of charge. It would be my contribution to the common good. And that’s when it hit me — that’s effective marketing in these turbulent times. Contribution marketing.
Related: 5 Things Advertisers Should Consider Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
What is contribution marketing?
We’ve all heard of content marketing, relationship marketing, paid marketing, and on it goes. This is different. This is marketing in which you are contributing to the public good. Contribution marketing means offering a product or service that fills an immediate need.
And it’s the only type of marketing you should be focusing on right now. Why? Because building brand equity and goodwill is going to come back to you in spades. It’s called karma.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business like a fitness studio, it means offering your services online. If you’re a home education platform, it means offering a sampling of your courses for free or at deeply discounted prices. If you’re a fashion business, perhaps you take off the restocking fees since no one can come to the store to try on clothes at the moment.
And don’t cheat by offering the same discounts and services that you normally do. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary marketing efforts. Your contribution marketing needs to be completely new and unprecedented.
We’ve already seen some small and large businesses engage in successful contribution marketing. For example, Loom, which offers video-recording software, removed its limits on file staring because it saw so many people were using it to communicate with their virtual teams. T-Mobile launched T-Mobile Connect, its lowest-priced smartphone plan ever, and educational software companies like Scholastic have opened up much of their platform free of charge.
Related: 4 Strategies to Help Your Business Recover From Coronavirus
Is contribution marketing right for you?
To find out if contribution marketing is the best path for your business, ask yourself a few questions:
In some cases, you may not have an answer. If you’re a travel company, for example, this just might not be your time to market discounts on summer vacations. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you can’t tend to your business in other ways.
Just put a freeze on your marketing efforts for now. Don’t expend any energy on it.
Instead, buckle down and take care of your business from the inside. Get your taxes in early this year (despite the extended due date), organize that paperwork that you always avoid, sit with your team and start doing workflows. Take a little break. Let your business be quiet. Gear up for your next launch. My point is: If you've got nothing contributing to say, don't say it.
What not to do
Despite all the uncertainty and pressures all around you, do not respond to this crisis from a place of fear. Deep discounts and fire sales are not the answer.
Neither is preying on other people's fears by just sticking the words “COVID-19” or “coronavirus” on your latest campaign even though it’s completely unrelated. That’s clickbaiting, and it’s not only insensitive — it’s terrible for business.
What’s good for business? Contribution marketing. It's not about saving money. It's about how can you help people in real, tangible ways. And if you are wondering what the ROI is, you’re not thinking about it correctly. You are providing a service to the world. Even from a practical business standpoint, you're building goodwill and gaining free exposure.
Do you know what it would cost you to get the kind of viral publicity some people are getting now because of their free access offering? Remember these changes are temporary. This too shall pass. But right now the world is what it is, and your marketing needs to reflect that.
Related: 8 Books to Help You Grow During the Coronavirus Pandemic
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