Posted by: R. Colette Glover-Hannah on Thursday, April 30, 2020

From 2020 Minority Business Accelerator Program Chair, R. Colette Glover-Hannah, Hannah's Shoebox

Small Business – COVID-19

Impact Lately, many business owners have found themselves in the midst of uncertainty. A mountain of emails about COVID-19, news about the coronavirus, conversations on the timeline and methods to reopen business communities and those repeated Zoom meetings are enough to let anyone know the world is changing. These are uncharted times around the globe. Many business owners are experiencing levels of angst. The struggle to remain open in numerous cases and relevant in most is the dilemma many business owners are now facing. Most will not come out of this period the same as they entered. As the best-selling author Simon Sinek advised us to Start with Why, we must now find ourselves strongly leaning into that same "Why."

What we know for sure is that "business as usual" is being renamed. In addition to the implications to people's health and the healthcare system, the COVID-19 outbreak is having an enormous impact on our business world. The lockdown due to the pandemic that was instituted in most states throughout the country, could possibly leave as many as two in three of America's small businesses closed and will leave many other financially fragile, a new survey reports. If large corporations are hurting from the financial impact of these uncertain times, imagine the economic condition of small businesses. Major corporations catch a cold and small businesses get the flu.

We can use this time to further tap into our entrepreneurial bag and dig even deeper in our toolkit to further strengthen the core of our businesses. Many have found solace in knowing that we have the support of the Tampa Bay Chamber and its numerous resources that have been extended as assistance during this period. Weekly online educational sessions, partnerships with other agencies, and supportive phone calls to business owners have all been part of the chamber's outreach to its members.

During this time when most businesses are challenged to thrive due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to provide pertinent services and products is paramount. Kudos to those who pivoted and switched their manufacturing plants to medical equipment distribution centers and/or other essential products. We applaud a little louder for all the Tampa Bay Chamber Minority Business Accelerator companies that have been able to quickly find new methods of distributing essential goods and servicing other businesses during this time. They continue to reveal why they deserve to be amongst the best businesses in our city.

It was nearly two years ago that I became engaged with and was later asked to be the Chair of the 2020 Minority Business Accelerator Cohort. As a minority/woman-owned business owner who first learned about entrepreneurship from my maternal great-grandmother, I have a special fondness for programs that assist small businesses. She operated a storefront in the segregated south when being Black and a woman were both huge barriers to owning a thriving business. I understood through my great-grandma's lens the challenges of operating a business with limited resources and an abundance of obstacles to hinder your progress. With these memories and in her honor, I happily accepted the offer to Chair the soon to be graduating 2020 Cohort.

The Tampa Bay Chamber Minority Business Accelerator program, established to assist in scaling Tampa-based Black and Hispanic businesses, is arguably more essential now than when it was established a few years ago. Times have changed and their varied needs are now greater. These companies will rely even more on the Chamber's community of mentors, advisors and supporters to continuously have a role in their post-COVID-19 economic growth and success. The same barriers they faced before the virus, will in many cases be magnified as corporations begin to tighten their purse strings. Experts predict that businesses will feel the financial impact of this pandemic period for years to come.

This is the time to virtually embrace all the Tampa Bay Chamber Minority Business Accelerator Cohort members a tad tighter and to lift them a little higher.

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