Several weeks after its onset, the COVID-19 Pandemic caused massive dislocation among small businesses. In fact, according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 43% of businesses in the study’s sample (5,800) had temporarily closed largely due to COVID-19.
Respondents in the 2020 study that had temporarily closed pointed to reductions in demand and employee health concerns as the reasons for closure. On average, the businesses reported having reduced their active employment by 39% since January.
Because of all the hardships this virus has caused to business owners and their employees, the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization wanted to do its part in helping our community recover. Thanks to a recent Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant, our institution was able to create two helpful programs designed to get small business owners affected by the pandemic back on their feet.
Introducing the Marketing & Social and Workspace Programs
Startup companies or existing businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic are highly encouraged to apply to our COVID-19 Business Support programs: Marketing & Social Media Program and Workspace Program. These programs have been designed to provide businesses:
- A co-working space and resources needed to conduct daily business operations;
- An online and social media presence that is needed now more than ever.
Let’s discuss these programs a little more in depth.
As the pandemic has compelled many customers to change the way they shop, businesses have learned that they must adopt effective online marketing tactics to meet up with that demand. To properly illustrate this point, consider that nearly 63 million online orders were placed for groceries in November alone, and if these stores did not have a digital platform and marketing plan set in place, they may not have made the revenue they need to continue operating, thus closing their doors for good.
Because of this, we wanted to make a difference. Our Marketing & Social Media Program not only helps businesses transition their operations online, it helps them develop a robust social media presence as well. Local businesses and startup companies that do not have an online presence–or have one that needs assistance–and have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to apply.
Affected and interested businesses must submit a completed application form, provide professional references, and upload their latest financial statements. Applications will be received on a rolling basis until January 2021 or until all spots have been filled. Applicants will be screened and selected by a university selection committee, and selected businesses will receive pro-bono professional marketing and social media services in order to transition their operations online.
Business’ financial resources have become strained over the course of the pandemic; however, affordable workspaces have been the answer to many of their woes. Our Workspace Program fills in this demand by making co-working space and team rooms available for up to 20 businesses. Startup companies and/or existing businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, who have lost office space, and need a place to work are eligible to apply.
Businesses that apply must submit a completed application, provide professional references, upload a completed background check and their latest financial statements. Applicants will also be screened and selected by a university selection committee, and applications will be received on a rolling basis until January 2021 or until all spots have been filled.
Selected businesses will be able to:
- Use the CIC co-working space for up to 20 hours per week;
- Check out conference rooms for up to four times per month;
- Have access to Wi-Fi;
- Enjoy 100 credits to print;
- Access to the CIC programming and mentors.
To continue participating in the program, selected businesses must abide by all social distancing rules and follow UTRGV and CIC code of conduct.