It’s no surprise that many small businesses are struggling today amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In fact, 92% of small employers say they’ve been negatively impacted, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.1 That may include anything from temporary closures, to furloughing employees, running through cash reserves (or not having any) or transitioning to a virtual environment.
New Orleans-based Good Work Network, established in 2001, is one nonprofit that’s ready, willing and specifically created to help these small businesses. In particular, their focus is on minority and women-owned businesses in the hard-hit New Orleans area, many of which fall into highly impacted industries, such as personal and food services.
Last October, Hancock Whitney awarded Good Work a $15,000 competitive grant to support the nonprofit’s efforts. The award is helping them enhance their own business model and reach a broader audience through the development of an innovative virtual business center. At the same time, it’s allowed them to re-imagine their original intentions and pivot to respond to small business needs in these challenging times.
Hancock Whitney presented Good Work Network a grant for $15,000 in late 2019.
Paying it forward
With the grant funds, Good Work has been developing tools and resources that help small businesses adjust to the new virtual reality of the COVID-19 era and rethink what it takes to survive and grow today.
As part of that effort, Good Work has started transitioning its small business training courses online. They had already mapped out several months of content when COVID-19 hit. “We quickly shifted to think about the types of information that people needed right now, in response to the crisis,” says Hermione Malone, Good Work’s executive director.
For instance, explains Malone, topics have shifted from more general business management subjects to those more specifically targeted to the COVID-19 situation, such as:
- Preparing for the Payment Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loan opportunity
- Explaining the CARES Act and implications for small businesses
- Helping businesses on-board technologies and applications to assist with virtual business — such as payment processing, payroll, electronic document signing, security and data backup
- Educating on timely employee management topics, such as managing through a crisis, keeping morale up during uncertain times and building engagement through a virtual work environment
After pivoting their model to adjust for current concerns, Good Work was able to support more than 200 small businesses in the first six weeks since the crisis began, Malone says. This number includes:
- 160 attendees at online classes
- 45 small businesses receiving one-on-one consultations
- An ongoing cohort of 11 small businesses in the group’s traditional training program (redesigned for virtual delivery)
Connecting to expertise
Grant money is also helping Good Work create an online portal allowing entrepreneurs to access advisors on subjects such as small business finance and accounting, marketing, strategy and social media.
“Black business owners are a highly creative and ingenious group. But they hit a challenge in having good people to turn to for advice,” explains Malone. “Part of what we want to do is make access to experts affordable.”
Another advantage to a virtual operation, she continues, is that it “allows us to reach more people. We wanted to make access equitable, so that if you have a phone or computer, you have access to the same tools as anyone who walks into our office in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.”
Good Work’s plans for the near future will continue to address the fallout caused by stay-at-home orders and other pandemic impacts. Developments include creating an online video library of previously recorded and live sessions, a completely virtual small business finance boot camp, and sessions around traditional business management concerns, such as understanding credit, accessing capital, financial management and so on.
“A lot of times, funders are reluctant to award substantial grants to organizations they don’t have a significant history with,” says Malone. “I’m excited that Hancock Whitney looked at our history and at our proposal and saw the same value as we did in what we’re doing. I am grateful to them.”
Hancock Whitney thanks and recognizes Good Work Network for the impact they’re making on small businesses — in this difficult time of change and every day.
- “COVID-19 Impact on Small Business: Part 3, National Federation of Independent Business, posted April 2, 2020, https://www.nfib.com/content/press-release/economy/covid-19-impact-on-small-business-part-3/, accessed May 1, 2020