Aid where it matters: Small business among hardest hit by shut down

Forsyth Technical Community College Small Business Center Director Allan Younger used a single word to describe how small businesses and entrepreneurs will be affected by the shutdown surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

Devastating.

Younger this week is pointing those seeking advice to the U.S. Small Business Administration and to business owners’ local chambers of commerce websites for direction.

“Everybody knows that depending on what type of small business it is, this situation is going to be devastating to many of them,” Younger said.

“I think what people are often overlooking is there are ways to support these businesses.”

With bars and restaurants shutting down inside service, people can take advantage of curbside service, take-out and home delivery.

Younger posted to his social media –– LinkedIn and other platforms –– some area startups that provide those kinds of services.

“I would definitely go to (the SBA) website. I have heard that they are trying to make even more available than they normally make available. Because this is not only a crisis, this is probably the biggest crisis that a lot of businesses are going to face,” he said.

“In addition to that, I would encourage business owners to look at the small business center website, to look at every chamber of commerce website, to see what resources they offer.”

Around the Triad, incubator and accelerator spaces and co-working sites are also having to take precautions to help blunt the spread of COVID-19. Many are locking down their facilities, opening only to employees and businesses with on-site work spaces.

Visitors are being asked to stay away for the next few weeks and public events are either canceled or postponed.

Venture Café in Winston-Salem holds regular “Thursday Night Gatherings,” mixers where would-be entrepreneurs and small-business owners network, exchange ideas and sit-in on workshops.

Those gatherings have been moved from in-person to a virtual experience for the time being.

“It is incredibly difficult if you are in startup mode, because when you are in startup mode a lot of your efforts are meeting people, understanding what the market requires and needs, and being able to position your business to respond to what the market needs,” Younger said.

With programs like Venture Café going virtual, or in other cases being called off, that really limits a startup’s ability to do the work it needs to get off the ground.

“A huge component of market research is interacting with people and saying, ‘hey, this is what my new business is going to do. How do you feel about it,’” Younger said.

“And people will tell you, ‘Yeah, that is a great idea, or no, that is not a great idea.’

“Right now business owners do not have that opportunity.”

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