Editor’s note: This story is sponsored and was produced by Forward Cities, a non-financial partner of Startland News and a national nonprofit that is managing the implementation of the ESHIP Communities program as a grantee of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Any opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author.
ESHIP Communities Kansas City is dedicated to growing trust, connectivity, and equity for entrepreneurs in neighborhoods most disconnected from the traditional entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We are entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, community leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs who care deeply about the small business and entrepreneurial community in Kansas City. We asked members of our local council for recommendations about how to best support KC’s small business owners and entrepreneurs during this unprecedented and challenging time. Below is what they had to say.
Many thanks to Chef Esra England, KC Cajun; Gerald Smith, Plexpod; Hadiza Sa-Aadu, Kansas City Public Library; Maria Meyers University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Nia Richardson, KC Bizcare, for their thoughtful contributions.
- Volunteer your expertise (web design, finance wizardry, HR pro, etc.) to support a small business.
- Pay for missed appointments and services, or try to reschedule; buy gift cards.
- Follow, friend, and share small businesses on social media.
- Engage entrepreneurs to learn what specific challenges they are facing and make a personal commitment to being aware of how COVID-19 has actually impacted the entrepreneurs around us.
- Offer support by reaching out to entrepreneurs and business owners to see how they are doing.
- Commit to buy local, support local, and promote local business.
- Help businesses in Black and minority communities obtain proper PPE (regulated masks, gloves and sanitation solutions) to protect their employees and customers. Access is limited to our communities with the greatest need, and the highest reported cases in the city.
- Build more emergency relief grants and loans locally for our small businesses, minority owned businesses and micro-enterprises.
- Keep a pulse on the funding and grants available to businesses affected by COVID-19 to be able to point people to these resources and share tips on best practices for applications.
- Provide direct assistance for strategic planning to prepare existing businesses not as hard hit to adjust to ‘new normals’ and/or direct support for helping existing businesses think through pivoting.
We recognize that some of these may be accessible to you as an individual community member, fellow small business owner, entrepreneur or KC ecosystem builder and others may need to be carried out by those of you in local government, organizations or as a community collective. Regardless we hope this list offers helpful and actionable recommendations and we thank all of the individuals, organizations, local government stakeholders and businesses who are actively engaged in supporting our local business and entrepreneurial community.
Taking a closer look: the power of kindness and connection
While it can feel overwhelming to know where to start, two of our council members who are both entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders are clear that kindness and connection are vital to helping local business owners and entrepreneurs navigate the pandemic. We’ll leave you with their words and a simple challenge to reach out to a local business owner you know today, find out how they’re doing and what they most need right now.
Listen, connect, and offer support.
“Local support is needed in many forms such as ensuring you are shopping local to help support the community or even doing as I have been over the past couple of weeks and just picking up the phone and calling to see how my peers are coping,” said Chef Esra England, KC Cajun. “Those conversations have been some of the most helpful, because it helps you realize you are definitely not going through this alone and gives you reassurance.”
During a time where much of the conversation is about programmatic approaches to economic stimulus, now is a good time to make it personal, added Gerald Smith, founder of Plexpod.
Forward Cities is managing the implementation of the ESHIP Communities program as a grantee of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. For additional information or to get engaged with the ESHIP Communities program in Kansas City, contact Gabe Muñoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.