Forced To Close or Adapt Online?

Applications close Friday, May 1 for the $50,000 marketing services grant in Arizona sponsored by Injected Media

“Mandated to close”

“Covid 19 hit us hard” 

“Afraid to go out there and get sick”

“They want us to close stores, but we can’t lose our jobs either”

“Need to transition into an online business”

“Desperately need to move my products to generate revenue”

Status of 2020 Small Business Grant Program

Open for applications. Must be submitted prior to May 1, 2020.

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These are words straight from Arizona businesses racing to move online in effort to keep their organizations alive. Last week, Injected Media began accepting applications for a $50,000 grant offered in digital services, the goal being to help Arizona businesses that were not prepared online to manage their remote teams, web sales, and customer interactions in the short (demanding) time leading up to quarantine restrictions. 

I was invited by Dominique Villela and agreed to sit on the selection committee (along with a couple of other executives from the retail industry including one of the nation’s top telecom corporations) to vet applicants and advise where the grant could produce the most good. The applicants are to be vetted based on economic situation and reliance on web activity to keep afloat.

Understanding the Applicants

We expected very small, perhaps less than 10 employee businesses from obviously paralyzed sectors like food service. The response received was broader than expected and provides an up-close view at the range of challenges founders are facing. Companies who have been in business for as long as 28 years are facing closure. Budding new businesses in critical phases of growth have stopped in their tracks.

To work with businesses that service customers face to face (beauty, health, and wellness companies for example) common services are not enough to reach clients online. Each of them will have to retool their products and services to be more focused on value-added, based on where things are headed in this new coronavirus economy. Other professional and educational applicants are challenged with having to connect with clients, customers, and students via online platforms. For those less tech savvy, they may not know where to begin. These companies are especially vulnerable as they run the risk of running out of capital as they manage what they perceive as their core business functionality, while trying to identify which web-based tools might help them. 

I admit that I do find a silver lining in understanding the trend to online commerce has already been in full effect. For the last ten years or more, marketers and business consultants have been supporting small to medium sized businesses to navigate digital marketing and their integrated operational tools in preparation and also to increase their revenue opportunities. The pandemic has simply forced us into the inevitable change many businesses didn’t understand, and much sooner than many were ready for.

Realizing the Impact 

This grant opportunity reminded me of a critical life lesson. In a time of crisis, the instinct is to close yourself off, “protect your own”, and hold tighter to resources. We forget that when you give freely and pay kindness forward you’re, in turn, able to receive so much more. 

Which brings me to the most inspiring discovery of some applicants. Some organizations are in dire need of support because they are aggressively servicing other local small business owners and teams in response to the pandemic crisis. Many of which are providing help free of charge. They’ve turned to the Injected Media marketing grant opportunity to help them survive and expand their reach in order to continue to support others.

I initially envisioned that the sponsored $50,000 was a smart and targeted investment into Arizona businesses in order to  help generate revenue, continue paying employees, and survive the recession. So with the average number of employees that have applied so far (6.52) multiplied by the number of businesses we will serve (determined to be 7) the median household income in Arizona ($59,246) you could conservatively suppose the economic impact at approximately $2.7MM in annual household income was preserved in the state of arizona.

What I never considered was that with these companies providing critical services to other companies (I.e., pro bono legal advice, processing PPP applications) the impact is exponentially greater and virtually unmeasurable (one could hypothesize at least 4 times as much putting this over $10MM in annual Arizona household income preserved). There would also be additional operating expenses entering into the Arizona economy. With salaries averaging 35% of a company’s overall expenses, it could be closer to $30MM that would be preserved or potentially continue to enter into the Arizona economy as a result of keeping these businesses open. 

The impact of the first round of loans SBA Coronavirus Relief Options included $4.8BB PPP dollars to Arizona, which was received by many (or a few) businesses which will in-part only temporarily preserve the paychecks of the employees. We need businesses to strategically protect their revenue streams and digitally adapt for sustainability. These digital marketing services are providing not only the economic impact, but the long-term equity of being able to continue generating income, paying employees and contractors, and creating more economic opportunities over time. When you spend a dollar online, if it is spent with some level of expertise, that dollar can have a much more profound and lasting impact than just folding capital into your cash flow. For Arizona, this provides potential cash flow inbound from other states who have ordered products and services from these small businesses.

As companies labeled “doomed to fail” not only survive the pandemic but begin to thrive in online communities, it won’t be long before others catch on. 

Keep your chin up Arizona, stay creative and pay kindness forward. 

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This post was written and submitted by a member of the Injected Media 2020 Small Business Grant Program Selection Committee. If you or a business owner you know are struggling to go digital, please encourage them to apply for the services grant. Applicants have until Friday this week (May 1) to be considered for this grantApplications close Friday, Apply Now >

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