2020 was a year full of disappointment due to the pandemic. Diverse and women-owned businesses, along with many others, were forced to close, deal with restrictions where staying open, and watch their businesses contract as corporate clients adjusted. Some went out of business, others were able to quickly move to online sales, while others found ways to survive with skeleton crews and shifting to the sale of new products and services. And proving it is impossible to suppress the entrepreneurial spirit, many closed down with plans to start anew in the future.
Minority and women-owned businesses were hit the hardest during the pandemic, per the Federal Reserve Board of New York. The report estimated 41 percent of Black-owned, 32 percent of Latinx businesses, and 26 percent of Asian businesses closed between February and April of 2020. Of course, many of these were owned by women. Approximately 17 percent of white-owned businesses closed. The specific reasons for the higher rate of closures for diverse businesses is yet to be pinpointed, but the key question now is this: How can minority- and women-owned businesses that survived the pandemic rebound, now that vaccines are being administered and the end of the pandemic is in sight?
It can be argued that minority owned businesses are more likely to fail or to suffer severe impacts due to the COVID pandemic. The New York Federal Reserve explains the reasons include that so many operate in areas hit hardest by the pandemic, and they have proportionally more difficulty accessing the federal loan money because the financial institutions worked primarily with their largest corporate customers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Special Report on Women-Owned Small Businesses During COVID-19 (August 26, 2020) found WBEs were impacted more than male-owned small businesses, are less likely to project a strong recovery in 2021, and have less optimistic investment, revenue, and hiring plans.
Though some businesses will never restart, there are tens of thousands that can rebound as the lockdowns are lifted across the country. It is absolutely critical they succeed because without a thriving small business sector, there will not be an economic recovery. Rebooting a business is not easy, but there are many ways to overcome the challenges faced today. The important thing is to take advantage of them. Too many small businesses did not even try to get PPE loans, because the application process was too cumbersome and catered to large corporations. Fortunately, the government recognized this issue and gave small businesses first access to the next round of money, and there will be even more money made available. The point is that business owners must stay on top of opportunities, because help can come from all directions – government programs, nonprofits and the communities they operate in, advocacy organizations, and corporations committed to contributing to economic justice through supplier diversity and community support.
For example, Mastercard is working with female business owners by offering access to mentorship, networking, and market intelligence data programs. TechRepublic prepared the TechRepublic’s Premium
“COVID-19: A Guide and checklist for restarting your business” and priced it at $99. It focuses on reopening a business safely and efficiently, in recognition the virus will be around a long while and businesses must adapt to the new reality.
Small business owners should work closely with advocacy groups, because these are tracking all sources of assistance from organizations including the national and regional Minority and Women Owned Enterprises (MWBE) groups, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Black Business Association (BBA), and the National Hispanic Business Group (NHBG), to name just a few. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce can also be extremely helpful and has extensions like the U.S. Black Chambers, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Pan Asian American chamber of Commerce. They can help with finding financial resources and adapting marketing practices, for example. If not already certified as a MWBE, this is also a wise step because it opens up new opportunities in government and private contracts.
The past year has been damaging to small businesses, but financial, economic, and corporate experts recognize the importance of jumpstarting their rebound. Supplier diversity and small businesses will play an important role in stimulating the economy and advancing social and economic equity. The best piece of advice for MWBEs is to take advantage of all the assistance available, because this must be a collaborative effort to thrive in a new reality.