In Spring of 2021, Business Impact NW reached out to small and micro business owners to complete a survey about their experience with the economic impact of COVID-19. These businesses felt that their voices were not heard in the programs that had been designed to provide economic recovery. We wanted to gauge their feedback on if they felt supported in recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic. Through the survey, Business Impact NW sought to understand the needs and advocacy efforts of the small and micro business community.
Our survey included responses from 58 small and micro businesses. These businesses are located in the Oregon and Washington, spanning across 38 zip codes. The survey responses represent 14 business sectors. Of the businesses surveyed, 54 have 1 – 5 employees and 4 businesses have 6 – 10 employees. Annual revenue for the 58 businesses ranges from $1,000 to over $105,001. Of the survey participants, 75% of the businesses received grants/loans, 60% of the businesses received PPP loans, and 46% of the businesses received EIDL grants. Additionally, of the survey participants, 53% received coaching/resource sharing services. To measure the average loss of revenue during COVID-19, we used data from 43 participants who estimated their financial loss with a specific amount. The average loss of revenue was $93,800. (See Full Report Visual Here)
“Continued payroll support would be the most helpful. If it’s not in the form of some kind of grant, we’re just piling up debt. I found the Scale Up series of classes very helpful. The small business advisory service you’ve been offering also are very helpful and greatly appreciated. I think that access to capital is a problem for everyone.” – Anonymous Participant
Survey participants reported that COVID impacted their businesses through a variety of losses, including employees, marketing, long time clients and income. Many businesses improved revenue through pivoting to online sales. Survey participants expressed the need for a central place to view and understand critical information for social distance guidelines and other COVID precautions. Loan forgiveness, independent grants, earlier access to financial assistance and eligibility to use EIDL for lost rent, were among many additional recommendations.
For numerous businesses, grants and loans were a challenge during COVID economic recovery. This was expressed through a variety of situations including, awarded amounts being too low to cover business costs and not qualifying for eligibility requirements. Many survey participants shared that the grants and loans received created large debt accumulation.
Economic Recovery in Multiple Forms
Many of the action step recommendations centered around networking, marketing opportunities, government support and accessible funding.
“Honestly in my experience, most small and micro businesses need more customers, which translates into networking or marketing or some other kind of lead generation.” – Anonymous Participant
Multiple participants shared that networking development would be a helpful for their business. Mentorship programs and virtual networking were included among the recommendations. To improve communications, survey participants requested tech support, media coverage, help with marketing in general, and tools to create brand awareness for their businesses.
For government support, participants would like to see small businesses featured more prominently in legislative agendas and an increase in micro business government contracts. A few specifics on funding requests included, independent grants, financial support for start-ups, and continued financial support for small businesses in all sectors.
Business Impact NW is working with the Washington Flex Fund, both in lending and technical assistance. The Flex Fund is designed to provide capital and technical support to small and micro businesses across the state.
“Business Impact NW has been a real partner and ally for us through the pandemic. Thank you.” – Anonymous Participant
Business Impact NW is also working with local CDFIs to start a Washington CDFI Coalition. The coalition will be working in the upcoming legislative session to advocate for a collaborative legislative agenda and share about the work for CDFIs with lawmakers.
“[I] want to thank you for the opportunity to participate. It has been a hard year but any small business still going should get a huge hand for staying alive in the environment. 2021 will be even harder for small businesses because the larger corporations will have money to invest in marketing, staffing and they have established brands. With support from the state and local government, a small business can thrive.” – Anonymous Participant
If you know additional small and micro businesses that would like to be involved in this work, please email [email protected]
About the author
Carolina is responsible for leading the Marketing and Communications department. She has a vast professional experience in marketing, market research and consulting, working with clients and organizations across many industries and in multiple Latin American countries. She earned her B.A. in Business Administration from Universidad Austral de Chile, a Master of Finance from Universidad de Chile, and a Certificate in Marketing from UC Berkeley. Outside of work she enjoys hiking, watching documentaries and volunteering.