Let’s face the facts: COVID-19 has wrecked many small businesses. One of the saddest experiences of 2020 (aside from the sickness, heartbreak, and grief this pandemic has inflicted on us) has been walking along a street you used to know well—whether in a large city or a small town main street—and seeing the shutters. Craving a meal from your favorite hole-in-the-wall joint only to encounter the dreaded phrase, “Permanently Closed,” on their website.
As a startup ourselves, CO.STARTERS mourns the loss of so many brilliant businesses, ingenious ideas, and promising menus this year. But not all the news is negative—we are glad to be able to celebrate the businesses that have been saved through the ongoing work of many of our communities.
Here are highlights from some of our CO.STARTERS community partners who have been able to provide vital support for their entrepreneurs with our road to recovery programs.
Summit County Prosperity Initiative // Summit County, Colorado
The first community to implement the Rebuild program as a COVID-era solution was Summit County Prosperity Initiative, spearheaded by Amy Kemp, a local business owner. At the start of Summit County’s program in May, 70 percent of participating businesses were fully open, and 5 percent had fully closed. By the end of the program, they eliminated the amount of full closures and brought fully open businesses up to 82 percent.
Rather than supplying a temporary fix, Rebuild encouraged starters to develop flexibility around their business model, just as the environment and economy were temporarily changing.
Kemp attributed much of the cohort’s progress to the Rebuild program’s methodology, which encouraged participants to take a deeper dive and a closer look at the guts of their businesses—the nuts and bolts of the business model.
“We were finding that business owners were completely overwhelmed, they were uncertain, oftentimes they just didn’t know where to turn to,” shared Kemp. “There were other resources out there but what we felt was missing was this opportunity to just step back, hit reset, look at their business model, get some education, get some advice, get some support.”
Rather than supplying a temporary fix, Rebuild encouraged starters to develop flexibility around their business model, just as the environment and economy were temporarily changing. But the program also provided a source of motivation and accountability to entrepreneurs who felt paralyzed by uncertainty. One participant shared, “It gave me something tangible to work on. I’ve had ideas and half-executed a handful of them. The Rebuild program was helpful and forced motivation to complete projects and really look at my business.”
Summit County’s implementation of Rebuild also helped bring the entrepreneurial community together during what has been an isolating year for many. In fact, after the program concluded, 100 percent of participants reported satisfaction with the connections they had within the Summit County community—as compared with 41 percent prior to Rebuild.
University of West Alabama // Alabama
Through the CO.STARTERS Rebuild program, UWA made large strides in aiding Western Alabama’s small businesses—particularly black female founders. Out of all the entrepreneurs who went through the UWA Rebuild cohort, 100% of them were able to halt their loss of revenue or reverse it throughout the course of the program.
Participants’ confidence in their financial and marketing know-how increased by 60 percent and 63 percent, respectively. UWA’s entrepreneurs overall felt more confident, more skilled, and more optimistic about their businesses’ survival through this deadly economic winter.
One entrepreneur said of their experience, “My facilitator’s experience, knowledge, and encouragement, the Canvas tool, and my fellow participants helped drive me to a new level of confidence. I found all of these most valuable about Rebuild.”
Out of all the entrepreneurs who went through the UWA Rebuild cohort, 100% of them were able to halt their loss of revenue or reverse it throughout the course of the program.
On a more personal note, another participant shared, “During these ten weeks, I became the caregiver of my husband, who developed the COVID-19 virus, and my brother in Ohio died because of COVID. This workshop motivated me to fight harder. I am determined not to allow COVID to kill my business dreams.”
Saving Our Appalachian Region // Eastern Kentucky
The Southeast and Rockies weren’t the only regions touched by the Rebuild program. Several CO.STARTERS members in Appalachia jumped on the opportunity to offer the program to their entrepreneurs.
A core part of CO.STARTERS’ mission is to aid entrepreneurs, not just in starting businesses, but in gaining clarity around the specific steps that are required for a business to get off the ground. The most valuable metric in our surveying efforts isa single question: “Did CO.STARTERS help you identify the next step for your business?” In a year of so much uncertainty, this question was particularly important to us.
Wonderfully, 100 percent of SOAR (Saving Our Appalachian Region) entrepreneurs said the Rebuild program helped them do just that, whereas none of the participants felt this way at the start of the program. On top of that impressive progress, confidence in business survival increased 80 percent over the course of the program, and every participant felt they were equipped with the necessary managerial know-how to steer their business through the pandemic.
A core part of CO.STARTERS’ mission is to aid entrepreneurs, not just in starting businesses, but in gaining clarity around the specific steps that are required for a business to get off the ground.
Over 100 participants have found similar value in the Rebuild program, all across the country. From Arizona to Wisconsin, the Rockies to the Mid-Atlantic, Rebuild has been helping communities weather the storms of 2020. And that is something to celebrate.