To state that COVID-19 has indelibly impacted our lives is an understatement. The arrival and spread of the still-mysterious virus has blighted every aspect of life, including the world of business and particularly, businesses catering to — and created by — women.
An American Express study last year found 22% of women-owned businesses were hair salons, nail salons and pet grooming studios, and that women own 16% of businesses in the food service and hospitality sectors — businesses that are particularly vulnerable amid pandemic restrictions. A survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 24% of small businesses were on the verge of complete closure.
With loans becoming scarce and no guarantee of another stimulus package, business owners have been looking for alternative assistance, and many have found success locally with the LiftFund Women’s Business Center.
Since the pandemic hit the U.S., LiftFund advisers have been helping female entrepreneurs remain viable, assisting nearly 500 business owners with COVID-19 relief and resources. Thanks to over 70 training events on loan preparation, Google-powered tools and virtual roundtables for specialized professions, 49 business owners accessed over $10 million in pandemic-related funding.
With a new marketing and coaching program, “Selling Through Covid,” starting soon, help is still available, and according to LiftFund director Tarsha Polk, more is on the way. In a recent phone chat, Polk revealed the special roadblocks that women face as business owners, what programs and services LiftFund offers, and what any business owner should be doing to stay solvent and successful as they navigate and network within the world’s new normal.
What are some concerns unique to female business owners that their male counterparts may not grapple with as much?
Having to manage our emotions and wellness. Many of us are mothers and wives or caregivers, and some are still learning how to lead and be healthy at the same time, along with self-care. I’m sure you know that generally, we as women tend to take care of everyone else before taking care of ourselves — in fact, I do it!
One of our early virtual video features was the “Emotional Wellness Program,” where we focused on being emotionally strong and well if you’re going through challenging times and making crucial decisions, saying “no,” creating boundaries. The response was so great we’re looking into bringing it back for the first quarter of 2021. It benefits us all because everyone is experiencing those emotional roller coasters right now.
What did you find D-FW’s business owners struggling with the most?
We did a survey of minority and women business owners: 85% had experienced cash flow problems because of COVID-19, and over half of them saw a 75% or more loss in revenue. That’s why we offer training programs at our website, covid19reliefsupport.com. There are financial training videos, additional resources for specialized industries that have been hit the hardest, such as for the beauty industry, even children’s day cares, led by industry experts from those fields.
How can any entrepreneur get and stay on the right track, besides applying for help at LiftFund and through the Small Business Administration?
Getting their business and financial paperwork in order. When the federal government released the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Disaster and Injury loans, for example, 40% of those coming to us for assistance didn’t have profit and loss statements, proof of employees, DBA paperwork. … It’s been a challenge. One woman had been in business for 20 years, and for all that time, she just was not keeping good financial records. She was operating out of her personal checking account instead of a business banking account. That’s what we do here and assist people with.
Also, the time is now to create a disaster plan. How are you going to recalibrate, what’s going to be the recovery strategy? Beyond money, that’s what’s needed to move your business forward.
Lorrie Irby Jackson is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.