Small Business Centers shift focus to help businesses survive - Greater Wilmington Business Journal

Small Business Centers shift focus to help businesses survive - Greater Wilmington Business Journal

Small Business Centers shift focus to help businesses survive - Greater Wilmington Business Journal

Posted: 24 Apr 2020 12:07 PM PDT

April Scott and Jerry Coleman don't like being the bearers of bad news, but they are having to warn their small business clients that the new pool of SBA Paycheck Protection Program funds will likely disappear in the next few days.
"It's brutal out there," Coleman said Friday. "I was on a conference call this morning with the SBA, and they say the $310 billion (included in Congress' latest relief package) will be gone Monday."
Coleman and Scott are the directors of the Cape Fear Community College Small Business Center and the Brunswick Community College Small Business Center, respectively. And they have learned that the $310 billion for small business loans included in Congress' newest financial relief bill is likely already spoken for by applicants in the PPP pipeline. Those small businesses had their applications processed and earned SBA approval but missed out on getting money when the initial $350 billion funding pool dried up.
But that doesn't mean that small business owners are left totally adrift. The two Small Business Centers are a first-stop resource for help, and they are adapting the information they provide and the mode of delivery to reach as many people in the business community as possible.
"We've gone from information about how to plan, start and grow a small business to how to help your business survive," Colman said. "But even in survival mode, it's still about planning."
After Hurricane Florence hit in 2018, Scott learned that many small businesses in Brunswick County weren't prepared for a natural disaster whose impacts lasted more than a few days. She has seen that again in recent weeks.
"You have to sell your products and services differently," she said Friday. "You have to adapt to the current situation. And reopening without a plan is not a good idea."
As COVID-19 virus lockdowns sent many small businesses into a tailspin, Scott said she adapted her message to the business community to boost morale and provide needed information. That meant offering webinars on such topics as landlord/tenant rights, new North Carolina tax laws, and ways of using social media to connect with customers and to market goods and services.
"These days, you can't just open your door and assume customers will find you," Scott said. "If you want to stay relevant now, ignoring social media is not an option."
Scott is also spending much of her time providing counseling to her clients. Sometimes they have specific questions; sometimes they just need to vent, she said. "There is a lot of disappointment about the funding, and I don't have an answer for that."
Instead, Scott said, she is happy to meet with her clients virtually, either by phone or through an online platform that allows her and the client to interact visually. And if she can't answer a question, she can call on her peers in the 58-branch North Carolina SBC network for help.
Coleman, formerly not a fan of online seminars, has discovered that they work remarkably well for many small business owners, who are hungry for information.
"We have a seminar next week that 75 people have registered for. Maybe we can reach more people this way. Even when we return to in-person classes, we will continue to sprinkle in some online content," he said.
The CFCC SBC is offering seminars on topics like effective internal and external communications, budgeting and financial sustainability, marketing, shifting a business to an online model and legal issues related to human resources.

Even in the depths of an economic downturn, however, both Scott and Coleman say they are working with some clients interested in starting a new business.
"We're starting to shift back to [information about] business nuts and bolts," Coleman said. "Existing businesses can use this time to plan so they can hit the ground running when they reopen."
In recent weeks, most of the people requesting counseling sessions at CFCC SBC have been owners of existing businesses trying to survive. But in the past week or so, Coleman said, he's started hearing from would-be entrepreneurs again, either resurrecting an idea they've had for a while or looking at opportunities created by the pandemic.
"Situations like this can force creativity," he said. "We're here to help."
Look for a follow-up story next week on area entrepreneurs who are working on new business ideas with these Small Business Centers.

Letter: Two ideas to help ND small business - Grand Forks Herald

Posted: 26 Apr 2020 06:00 AM PDT

We need to do more as a state to help our micro-businesses. We can't continue to rely on the federal government to get us out of this crisis. The majority of businesses in North Dakota are small businesses, defined by 500 employees or less. I believe that most are actually micro-businesses, 10 employees or less.

These are our local baristas, personal trainers, manicurists. Our small bars, grocery stores, boutiques and auto shops, to name a few. Our micro-businesses make our communities special, and we can't afford to lose them; they are too important. The Commerce Department is doing a great job helping our bankers and businesses apply for federal programs and unemployment compensation, but we need to do more as a state and in our cities.

I have a couple ideas to help our micro-businesses: Send a check to them right now – $1,000 for every full-time employee, and $500 for every part-time employee. Call it a no-interest loan from the Bank of North Dakota until it's forgiven by the Legislature in 2021.

Give a grant at the get-go. What our businesses need right now is liquidity, not debt.

Suspend payroll taxes until the end of the year. This will need legislative approval, but maybe

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there is something we can do. Suspend all utilities for the short term. This will put pressure on local budgets, but the long-term goal is they stay open.

Our micro-businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need a state and city plan to keep them alive. Let's explore every creative, out of the box, crazy idea, because every North Dakota community – from rural to urban – needs to keep Main Street intact.

Pamela Anderson, a Democrat, is a member of the state House of Representatives.

How You Don’t Have To Travel To Support A Few Female-Owned Small Businesses In London - Forbes

Posted: 26 Apr 2020 05:52 AM PDT

As we are all spending far more time at home, with virtual House-parties and Zoom business meetings, we are still looking for opportunities to add a little sparkle and brightness to each day. We can find new joy in old ensembles or support the many British-based small businesses that are still open virtually and delivering online orders. A pair of earrings or statement necklace can help transform even the most understated ensemble and help the wearer feel as if they are travelling outside of the everyday, even if only for a few hours and from the comfort of their living room.

Bear Brooksbank has always been enchanted by precious stones. Having first trained as an actress and then working in a central London contemporary art gallery, Bear returned to her passion in her early twenties, working for Humphrey Butler, a highly respected jewellery dealer in Mayfair. Simultaneously, she trained as a gemologist and designer at the prestigious Gemological Institute of America. In 2012, she established the Bear Brooksbank Studio, specialising in bespoke and commission-based projects, whilst also holding a collection of fine jewellery pieces available to buy. Now, in these uncharted times, Bear Brooksbank Studio is still taking bespoke consultations over the phone and email. "It feels really important to keep a creative flow, so we can look forward to the future and have the confidence there will be work for us when all of this is over," explains Brooksbank. "It's also so special to hear from our existing clients and to see images of them enjoying their Bear Brooksbank pieces. That reminds us of what we have achieved to date and the bedrock of what we have built."

The Susannah Lovis brand was first established in 1996 by Susannah herself, and Lovis quickly established myself as one of Mayfair's most respected and knowledgeable jewellers. Specialising in antique pieces, Susannah Lovis's collection boasts a romanticism and heritage that can't be recreated in new designs. Each piece is a slice of fashion history. From rare, handcrafted gold cufflinks to an Art Deco platinum and diamond tiara—the range of unique and exceptionally beautiful jewellery at Susannah Lovis Jewellers is truly eclectic. The trends and styles of time periods throughout history are reflected in the design and craftsmanship on display.

Tell me about some of the far-flung places you source stones and items from and how you found them?

Susannah Lovis: I discovered my love of gemmology when I was travelling in Africa during my gap year. I was backpacking and whilst I was in the countries of Southeast Africa, I was often offered coloured gemstones for sale. When I arrived in Zaire or the Congo as it is now, I hitched a lift in a pick up truck. During the journey they stopped the car three or four times. When the truck stopped people would come out of the jungle and offer them little white crystals. I didn't know at the time but now know these must have been diamonds in their rough form. I was very intrigued and when I arrived home I instantly enrolled in a gemmology course, which I followed with diamond grading and then jewellery design.  

Twenty-eight years later I have my business in Burlington Arcade and acquire gemstones from all over the world to use in my creations. I now buy from all the countries I visited, and I now know what to look for and what to pay for a stone. I buy tanzanite from Tanzania, rubies from Madagascar and emeralds from Zambia.  

Do you have any tips on holiday jewellery when you are in a sunny destination? What about for après ski?

Susannah Lovis: When you holiday in a sunny climate it is important to have a choice of jewellery to wear. During the day I tend to just wear diamond studs and a pendant, as I can feel secure in the knowledge that they will not fall out or off and I can lie on the beach, swim or go island-hopping without the fear of losing them. In the evenings I take fun, colourful and easy-to-wear jewellery with semi-precious beaded gemstones like tanzanite, rubies or emeralds to compliment elegant summer evening dresses. 

For après ski, I suggest long drop diamond earrings, a long string of beautiful pearls and of course a big ring to sparkle in over dinner.

What are some of the trends you notice in clients and buying patterns internationally?

Susannah Lovis: There is a real demand for vintage named or signed jewellery from the likes of Cartier, Van Cleef and Boucheron at the moment, and that's something I specialise in. I am always happy to advise collectors on what to buy at a reasonable price with the knowledge they will love wearing it, and it will increase in value over time. This is because the stones are always exceptional quality, the craftsmanship is exquisite and the jewellery is immaculately put together. 

Your suitcase must absolutely contain...

Susannah Lovis: A jeweller's loupe—so I can view items at 10 times magnification. I love browsing antique shops and markets. You never know when you are going to find something special, and a loupe helps you identify genuine pieces. You may come across an exquisitely made piece in a quiet out-of-the-way shop or in a box with costume jewellery at a market. If you holiday in the Caribbean look out for beautiful pink conch pearls. These are commonly found by the fisherman and can be bought for a few dollars but are highly desired back in in England. 

To get away from it all, you go to...

Susannah Lovis: My house in the Surrey hills. I love the stunning countryside around us and enjoy walking or mountain biking with my family and my gorgeous soppy Labrador.

How customers can best support you and small business at this crucial time?

We are in lockdown and the shop has been closed by the Prime Minister as a measure to prevent the spread of the corona virus. We can't open to the general public at the moment, but I hope our customers will use this as an opportunity to embrace the modern way of shopping on the internet. Our website is full of information and has excellent close-up photographs of the jewellery from all angles, and we are also able to supply videos of the jewellery being worn. In addition, I am happy to personally speak to anyone on the phone to guide them through the items.

After studying Mathematics and Philosophy at Oxford University, Anna Jewsbury established her London-based brand Completed Works in 2013. The sculptural and whimsical designs have been worn by brilliant women from many disciplines, including poets, artists, activists and actresses such as Jodie Comer, Naomie Harris, Emma Watson and Felicity Jones, as well as been auctioned in a contemporary designer sale at Christie's, New York.

Tell me about some of the far-flung places you source stones and items from and how you found them?

 Anna Jewsbury: For our very first collection, we sourced pieces of reclaimed marble from our travels, including pieces from Italy and Greece. We still have pieces we're holding on to from Mount Laconia in Greece—from a quarry that dates back to Minoan times that was eventually forgotten and then rediscovered in the 19th century for a brief period before closing for good. The tradition in jewellery design is that you will find a stone and build a design around it, but for us we usually work the other way around—we explore and research the theme behind a collection first and then look for materials or stones that will translate and communicate the ideas best. 

Do you have any tips on holiday jewellery when you are in a sunny destination? What about for apres ski?

 Anna Jewsbury: Nothing beats all-gold jewellery with a suntan. I also love cooling materials like pearls or ceramic. We have an all-white ceramic necklace called Poolside Gossip, an unashamed tribute to Palm Springs. 

For après-ski, I would pack smaller and more comfortable pieces that are easy to take on and off.

What are some of the trends you notice in clients and buying patterns globally - as I know you are stocked not just in London.

Anna Jewsbury: Globally, we've noticed the boundaries between fine jewellery and fashion jewellery have become completely blurred. Fine jewellery used to be almost exclusively purchased for gifting, and this is just not the case anymore. People want to be the authors of their own story… They want to express something personal. They want to build a collection that is authentic and personal to them and reflects the journey they have taken. 

Your suitcase must absolutely contain...

Anna Jewsbury: Moisturiser and an interesting book.

To get away from it all, you go to...

Anna Jewsbury: Benesse House in Naoshima, Japan

How can customers best support you and small business at this crucial time?

Anna Jewsbury: Although we've had to close our London showroom and studio, we are still very much open online. We are also donating 10 percent of all our online sales to the WHO's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

16 Great Business Ideas For Fighting The COVID-19 Pandemic - Real Leaders

Posted: 01 Apr 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Editors Note: Real Leaders is making its archive of magazines freely available to all visitors to our website as part of our contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic. We believe you'll emerge stronger and wiser when this crisis passes, and we hope our stories will keep you entertained and inspired while we sit out this challenging time. Sign up here and you'll be instantly redirected to our archive.

Millions of business owners are scrambling to reinvent their businesses. Many have already found innovative ways to roll with the punches — from rethinking supply chains, redeploying staff, offering crucial advice, and even recreating your favorite bar online. We asked 16 smart CEOs and business owners how they've adapted to our new virus-ridden reality.

1. These Outdoor Cushion Makers Aren't Sitting Down

Known for their durable outdoor furniture made from recycled plastic, Polywood is pivoting to respond to a call to action from Indiana hospitals that have reached out and asked for one million cloth surgical masks. The company is enlisting their sewing team that normally assembles outdoor furniture cushions to help create the masks and their textile partner Revolution Fabrics is currently testing different fabric blends for breathability. Polywood will do their own in-house research, in conjunction with local health leaders to quickly scale and produce masks that can also be bleached and reused to meet escalating demand.

2. Smart Security Kiosks Stop the Spread of New Threats

While large numbers of US citizens are expected to work from home due to the continuous spread of COVID-19, utility workers, first responders and medical staff are still expected to fulfill their duties. Security provider, Force 5 has taken a unique approach at keeping staff healthy during this pandemic and developed kiosks at security points that ask workers health-screening questions before entering critical areas, or interacting with critical personnel. Questions such as: "do you have clearance?" and "have you traveled?" are asked to protect workers. They are also developing a thermometer to check staff temperatures and integrates with their kiosk's — to automatically reject high risk individuals entering a facility.

3. Ancient Games Become New Mental Health Tools

Online chess and backgammon website, Chess Gammon, based in the United Kingdom, has seen a spike in demand for these traditional games. With billions of people housebound, the company has been helping people at home stay mentally active and reduce the risk from going outside. Who would have thought that such ancient games would have suddenly become so popular again.

4. The Hacked Booking App That Now Rallies Volunteers

Zelos, is an app for volunteer management based in Estonia. Originally developed for events and festivals, when the virus struck their Northern European country they connected their app to collaboration app Trello within 48 hours and created a helpline for senior citizens. The elderly call the helpline and an operator uses Trello, to push information to volunteers' smartphones. Within 24 hours, they had signed up more than 1,000 volunteers and within two days were helping seniors to get groceries (and avoid the 3-day wait times). The founders don't have the resources to scale this idea beyond Estonia, and are looking for those interested in implementing this idea in their communities. The API is free, and people would only need to cover minor software costs.

5. Unemployed Tailors Have Become Lifesavers

Boston-based custom clothier 9Tailors provides top quality, custom suiting and has been greatly impacted by the region-wide lockdown. "In a time when you aren't able to do what you normally do, you must look for what you can do," says founder Samantha Shih. The company found itself with tailors with sewing machines who were out of work, and local hospitals with a lack of medical supplies. It was a perfect match. Using their excess fabric, comprised of 100% wool, they employed the unemployed tailors and seamstresses, who also urgently needed an income, to produce reusable face masks for healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

6. Beyond Hand-Washing: Full Body Sterilizers

Boster Biological Technology, based in Pleasanton, CA, has been producing high-quality antibodies and testing kits to the scientific community since 1993, but with the arrival of COVID-19, they sprung into action to develop new products that help patients and medical workers. The company is working on a whole body sterilizer that will be sprayed over your entire body. They are also developing thermal scanners to be installed around the US that will check body temperatures of visitors to airports and buildings — the first screening step in identifying coronavirus patients.

7. Pandemic Masks That Kids Really Want to Wear

Children's toy company, Bunnies By The Bay, is manufacturing masks for kids and medical workers with heartwarming images of bunnies and whimsical designs. They are also donating products and resources to hospitals and orphanage groups — an ongoing mission of theirs. With the rise of COVID-19 they are a next step to help spread comfort and love to children, while helping to save lives.

8. Lonely? Visit Russia's Stay the Fck Home Bar

Open 24/7, the Stay the Fck Home bar was launched by Russian creative agency the Shishki Collective to encourage more people to stay at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 30,000 users visited the website in the 24 hours since its launch and during the first opening week more than 120,000 people visited the online-bar. The virtual video-conferencing bar is without borders, where people from all over the world can meet, have a drink, and try not to lose their collective minds by supporting each other. Already,  #Stayrhefuckhome has grown beyond the original idea to include 15 themed bars — including wine bars and Italian bars.  "We are going to collaborate with world-renowned DJs, organize events and keep having fun despite this worldwide quarantine," – says Mike Shishkin, CEO of  Shishki Collective. Some people are popping in for only a few minutes, but some people are spending an entire night together. For example, one attendee from Kiev took his mates on a "bar crawl," driving around the city and showing everyone the beautiful landmarks of Kiev through his phone camera. 
"We were driven by idea of openness and  mutual support around the world," says Shishkin. "We want people not to close up and become anxious and suspicious because of the virus. Rather, we want them to lead with openness and mutual support, and give people a chance to expand their social circles around the globe."

9. Truck-sharing Company Helps Students Relocate Fast

Truck-sharing service Truxx announced they are offering discounted service for university and college students faced with early move-outs as campuses continue to close in response to COVID-19. The aim of the offer, dubbed CollegeRoxx, is to help students make their unexpected moves just a little easier. The company also stepped up to help in Nashville after a tornado. Many companies have used their service to help with sudden logistics challenges that they face with the current pandemic. Cofounder Jamie Hess, reckons they are perfectly positioned to help those planning to convert buildings to hospitals or overhaul production lines that require new supply chains. Their truck-sharing model offers an agile, cost effective service that can help.

10. Tell Your Boss What You Really Think. From a Safe Distance

Online suggestion box, DirectSuggest, has a virtual suggestion box application that is being used throughout the world to assist organizations to manage, adapt, and mitigate issues around the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of employees are staying engaged with their companies and making innovative suggestions on what they think is necessary to prevent the virus from harming their daily operations. DirectSuggest are currently offering a free 90-day promotional offer to assist in spreading the level of impact they can make in businesses around the world.

11. These Lawyers Have Turned Into Publishers For Good

Connecticut law firm Pullman & Comley has essentially turned itself into a COVID-19 publication, putting out blog posts multiple times a day on different legal topics. As the crisis began to unfold, this 101-year-old firm with 90+ attorneys was inundated with questions from companies, municipalities, educational institutions and nonprofits and attorneys began writing almost immediately as a service to the communities they serve. Many of the topics they have addressed are ones that many may not even have considered yet: Working from home and sick leave policies — what is required of employers and what is within their rights? Childcare and children-at-work policies — how can employers support parents of kids whose schools or daycares have been closed? What types of business closures could be covered by insurance? How has telehealth coverage been expanded and who can now see a doctor remotely? Quarantine and isolation policies — who can be quarantined and under what conditions? How do school closures affect obligations of school districts with respect to students with disabilities?

12. Disinfect Your Office With Small UFO

Sending humans into buildings infected by the COVID-19 virus to disinfect them is a health risk, especially in small rooms and in confined spaces. Most drones can't fly stably indoors and into confined spaces, but Digital Aerolus has developed the Aertos 120 UVC drone by combining the disinfection power of UVC lights with unique industrial drones. The drones are designed to fly indoors and in confined spaces and provide UVC cleaning, significantly reducing health risks. Potential areas include doctor's offices, hospital rooms, waiting areas, grocery and retail stores, businesses and areas where first responder and healthcare workers rest between shifts. UVC light sanitation technology is currently used in the healthcare industry but many of the UVC lights are large, cost-prohibitive or impractical to deploy. By combining industrial drones with small but powerful UVC lights, it has allowed many more organizations to use this life-saving technology.

13. Find a Machine Globally to Fulfill Your Local Needs

Neil Ferrier, the head of luxury lifestyle brand, Discommon in Greenville, South Carolina, recently pivoted all his efforts toward aiding medical workers in the state. He rallied his overseas production contacts to produce 7.5 million disposable masks and is delivering these masks to the hospital system in South Carolina. Frustrated with the delays in shipping, as 230 countries try to get their products out of China, he utilized his resources to locate critical mask-making machines in Hong Kong and was instrumental in working with multiple parties to facilitate a National Guard Lockheed C-5 to pick up the machines and deliver them to Carolina. Locals are now able to produce masks at fabric mills in the area.

14. Is Your Product Already Fighting The Virus?

Copper H2O produces water bottles made of copper, which recent studies have shown is naturally anti-viral and can help stop the transmission of the coronavirus (but not a 100% solution). Many companies have already used their copper bottles for staff as a way of helping to minimize the spread of the virus and also to avoid disposable, single-use water bottles. Recent scientific studies on copper as an anti-viral have shown the benefits of this metal.

15. Give Your Empty Land Away (For a While)

CEO of Car Passionate, Michael Lowe, wasn't sure how his car parts company could contribute to the COVID-19 outbreak, but then he realized that even small gestures and ideas can help. "As my staff and I are working away from our premises as much as possible, we aren't using the entirety of our land, so what I decided to do is allow all key, front-line workers to park freely wherever and whenever they liked." Their team have offered their services to the vulnerable by adapting many of their vehicles into delivery vehicles and turned industrial pressure washers, used for cleaning industrial grime, toward keeping vulnerable areas clean. Their positive role modeling has made other small businesses in the area want to join forces with them and help deliver essentials to the vulnerable.

16. How to Fight an Invisible Enemy With 3D Printers

Minuteman Press franchisees like Michael Levy in Levittown, Long Island are taking action in the fight against COVID-19 by using 3D printing to produce critical items like face-shields and hand sanitizer labels. Levy never imagined that his 3D printing machine would one day be used to help fight a disease, but that's exactly what's happening today. While the face shields Michael and his staff are printing and assembling are not designed by medical teams, they are being requested by medical professionals and requests are mounting as quickly as he fulfills them. "I'm getting calls from anesthesiologists, dental hygienists and other providers. All are saying they want them now and don't have them readily available, so we print them all day to accommodate this need.


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