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With a new wave of closings sweeping the country to contain the third wave of the pandemic, small businesses – vital to the health of the US economy – are struggling to hold out. Many are closed forever: 60 percent according to a Yelp poll in September – 20 percent more than in April. Today the number is even higher. Unable to support their employees who have run out of unemployment insurance, the impact is far-reaching and heartbreaking. Small businesses employ about 50% of the workforce and are more than just a job, a retail store, a pin on Google Maps – they are an important part of the community and often become a substitute family for employees, a meeting place for neighborhood people and the face of the community Neighborhood. As customers stay “safer at home”, bills continue to rise; Without government support, many entrepreneurs see their dreams turn into an unimaginable nightmare. Entrepreneurs and small business owners understand and anticipate the challenges of running and scaling a business, but the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 goes well beyond what most of us can plan for.
How many do I see companies struggling in my own community. These are my neighbors – people I know and places I frequent – the cafe, the yoga studio, and the cleaning. The need for help is palpable. I knew I had to do something.
I've spent years helping startups, business owners, and corporations launch and scale new products, ventures, and ultimately dreams. As the founder of Afara Global and creator of the Take Back Your Time coaching program, my experience has shown that with the right tools and support, companies can master almost any challenge and even turn those challenges into potential opportunities.
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Last summer, I worked with a few individual companies helping them redefine their business as usual by developing strategies that enable them to adapt, endure and even thrive in these particular circumstances. As the need in my community grew, I knew I had to find a way to reach more people. Another "business exclusion" sign was too much.
I created the Small Business Accelerator Program to give small business owners and entrepreneurs the opportunity to turn this nightmare back into the dream they had in mind – a dream not just for them, but for their communities.
After creating the curriculum, I reached out to Jason Young, a good friend of mine and the founder and CEO of MindBlown Labs, a laboratory for financial wellness innovation. He'd spent a decade helping people gain financial and economic self-determination – and as black entrepreneurs and small business owners, we were particularly aware of how COVID-19 affects not only the physical health of black communities, but economic health as well Health disproportionately. Jason agreed that the Small Business Accelerator could help our communities and others during this time of need.
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Jason and I took the opportunity to make meaningful and lasting impact, reached out to our networks, and identified those who would benefit most from it. We started with the first cohort, which consisted of 4 black-owned companies. Erika Pierson belonged to the first group. Erika made homemade ice cream for family and friends – in her own way, turning her passion for desserts into a sideline. It is their way of bringing joy to people. I met Erika for the first time through a mutual friend who recommended that she try out my Take Back Your Time coaching program. Erika's vision was inspiring and joyful. She wanted to build a community around her ice cream parlor. After a detailed discussion and an inventory of her commitment and her goals, we accepted Erika into our first cohort. Within two weeks she achieved goals she had only imagined. It's not about doing it one day; it's about doing it today. During and after her participation in the Small Business Accelerator, Erika's business grew rapidly despite the challenges of the pandemic.
In selecting participants, Jason and I look for some commonalities that Erika all had. The key trait is a growth mindset: people who are committed to learning about it and getting the job done. Having an existing business with existing revenue helps – but the mindset is non-negotiable. You need to be willing to take full advantage of entrepreneurship to live the life you want. Our goal is to help you with this.
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Jason and I are very dedicated and closely related to the members of the Small Business Accelerator. We meet weekly with each cohort to lead exercises, discussions and exploration of real-world case studies. We provide the group with strategies, tools and coaching so that they can focus only on the essentials, set boundaries, set priorities and let go of things that do not contribute to their goals.
We support this learning by offering weekly one-on-one meetings to delve deep into individual action and accountability plans, and then doing regular follow-ups several times a week to see how things are going. This is not therapy. This is an accelerated business coaching program that says, “Here is the result that you said you wanted; Let's take action to get you there. "
We know small businesses need this type of support, and our goal is to help as many small businesses as possible. To this end, we branch out and expand into corporate, government and organizational partnerships that can benefit from a focused and tailor-made accelerator program – because in times of economic uncertainty, even large companies can benefit from the strengthening of the backbone of our economy: small businesses. “Now I have the infrastructure to expand,” says Erika. Your expansion – and any small business expansion – allows our communities to thrive and prosper. This is our ultimate goal.
Every company has a story. Economic uncertainty doesn't have to be yours to write about. There is help out there. There are resources, support, and new opportunities for you to explore. It's an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. The landscape is yours should you choose to inhabit it.