Governor Pritzker Announces $900 Million in Grant Relief Programs

The information in this post was last updated on June 30th, 2020. It will be updated as new information is released.

Key Takeaways

  • Financial assistance programs will provide relief for many renters and homeowners impacted by COVID-19
  • Small businesses experiencing hardships and/or damages as a result of civil unrest will receive economic recovery support
  • Poverty-stricken areas can expect funds to rebuild and serve diverse communities
  • State Grant Support

    On June 17th, Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker announced a wide-ranging package of over $900 million in state grant programs to support the communities and businesses impacted by the COVID-19.

    The pandemic has had an immense economic impact on the residents of Illinois. Many are facing financial hardships and businesses from various industries and sectors continue to face obstacles and strains. The new package of grant programs operate with equity requirements, ensuring that disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) receive their fair share of support.

    “We are in a moment that requires a historic effort to mitigate this virus’s devastating effects on the health and livelihoods of the residents of this state,” said Governor Pritzker.

    Read on for details and eligibility requirements of each program.

    Emergency Rental Assistance Program

    The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) is launching a $150 million program with $5,000 grants to provide emergency rental assistance to Illinois tenants who are unable to pay their rent.

    The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) is expected to reach approximately 30,000 renters who are impacted by the pandemic. The program will launch in August 2020 and run through the end of the year. Additionally, Gov. Pritzker will extend the ongoing residential eviction ban through July 31 to provide a smooth transition into the assistance program.

    To qualify tenants must already carry an unpaid rent balance from March through present-day and certify that the reason they were unable to pay rent was due to a COVID-19 related loss of income on or after March 1, 2020. Landlords can expect to be paid on behalf of the tenant and they must agree not to evict the tenant for the duration of the ERA. This financial assistance will be available on a first-come, first-approved basis until the funds are exhausted.

    Emergency Mortage Assistance Program

    IHDA is also launching a separate $150 million program for eligible Illinois homeowners with grants of up to $15,000 to provide support with mortgage payments. The Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMA) is expected to assist approximately 10,000 eligible homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgage. The program is expected to launch in August 2020 and provide assistance through the end of the year.

    Homeowners’ income prior to the pandemic cannot exceed 120 percent of the area median income (AMI). Only homeowners with mortgage arrearages, or in forbearance, on or after March 2020 through present-day may be eligible to apply. Eligible homeowners must be able to certify that the reason they could not pay their mortgage in full was due to a COVID-19-related loss of income on or after March 1, 2020. The assistance will be paid directly to the mortgagor’s loan servicer on behalf of the homeowner. This program win operate on a first-come, first-approved basis.

    New Business Interruption Grants Program

    The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO) will launch the first round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG) by providing $60 million to up to 3,500 businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures.

    The application for BIG will open on Monday, June 22 and IDCEO will begin releasing funds to qualifying businesses in early July. The total program funding will amount to at least $540 million in grants for small businesses, $270 million of which has been set aside for childcare providers, and is funded by the CARES Act. Click here to apply.

    Small businesses that needed to completely shut down or were drastically restricted will get priority in the first wave of grants.

    We are in a moment that requires a historic effort to mitigate this virus’s devastating effects on the health and livelihoods of the residents of this state

    Businesses eligible for the program must have experienced extreme hardship, demonstrated by eligible costs or losses in excess of the grant amount, since March and may continue to face depressed revenues or closure. Businesses must also have been in operation for at least three months prior to March 2020. An emphasis will also be placed on those businesses that are located in areas that have experienced recent property damage due to civil unrest, exacerbating the economic impacts of COVID-19.

    The program supports the following:

  • Businesses in DIAs – $20 million for businesses that are located in a subset of DIAs that have recently experienced significant property damage, providing 1,000 grants of $20,000 each
  • Bars and Restaurants – $20 million for bars and restaurants unable to offer outside service, providing at least 1,000 grants of up to $20,000 each
  • Barbershops and Salons – $10 million for barbershops and salons, providing 1,000 grants of $10,000 each
  • Gyms and Fitness Centers – $10 million for gyms and fitness centers that have lost significant revenue due to COVID-19, providing 500 grants of $20,000 each
  • Distressed Capital Program

    The IDCEO’s new economic recovery program will provide $25 million to support Illinois businesses that have sustained property damage as a result of civil unrest during the recent protests and demonstrations on or after May 25, 2020.

    The money will go toward reimburse businesses for the cost of structural repairs, and will place a priority on small businesses, women- and minority-owned companies, uninsured and underinsured businesses, businesses in communities with historic disinvestment, and businesses with “high community impact” such as grocery stores.

    The Distressed Capital Program will reimburse the costs to repair structural damages, including repairs to storefronts and entrances, improving electrical systems, and restoring exterior work.

    The Rebuild Distressed Communities Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) will solicit applications from regional and local organizations that will perform outreach, coordinate local qualified vendors, and provide funds to cover the cost of repairs and building improvements for businesses in their region. The Distressed Capital Program also includes provisions to ensure BEP-certified contractors, including minority and women-owned businesses, are the first in line to do the repair work.

    Applications will be made available on Monday, June 22. Click here to apply.

    Poverty Alleviation Strategies

    The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will provide $32.5 million in an effort to immediately mitigate poverty in Illinois and respond to the needs of communities hit hard by COVID-19 and civil unrest. The program will support more than 73,000 people across the state by building upon contracts and services to target communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The actions will begin in June and extend through the summer.

    Specifically, the IDHS strategies will provide:

  • Unemployed Adults – Stipends of up to $4 million to help rebuild businesses
  • Summer Youth Providers – More than $6 million to empower and engage youth and help rebuild communities
  • Foods Banks – $2 million to expand the capacity to feed hungry families in the hardest hit areas
  • Illinois Black and Brown Farmers – $1 million to increase the availability of fresh food and produce
  • Mental Health Services – $2 million to help meet the increased demand for crisis services and better serve diverse communities
  • Community-Based Organizations – $5 million to provide small grants for healing circles, restorative justice circles, and other healing activities
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – One-time $500 payment to help ensure food security, totaling $11.5 million
  • Additionally, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDA) will expand the Emergency Senior Services Funds by providing up to $5 million to support senior residents in need of meals, groceries, medicine, and medical care. The funding will assist seniors who may not have been able to access necessary supplies due to damages to physical locations in their communities. The department will utilize the statewide case coordinator units (CCUs) throughout the Aging network to take referrals for services from all Aging providers.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Transformation: Driving Personal and Professional Growth

    Key Takeaways

  • Stop talking about taking the first step and actually do it. Get going
  • Highlight key strategies to improve your personal and/or professional life
  • Transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across various areas of our lives

  • Data, analytics and business strategy are just a few of the topics covered in the new, highly acclaimed podcast: Transformation Nation. Jason Krantz founder of Strategy Titan and Jordan Morrow of Qlik share stories, lessons learned, and breaks down strategies and tactics to maximize your personal and professional potential.

    Their podcast is featured in Medium’s article “Empower People to Create a Bingeable Podcast”. Read on for more from our Q & A with ID member Jason on how the podcast came to be and hear about their journey inspiring others.

    Q: What made you both decide to create the podcast?

    A:This is an idea Jordan and I had been discussing for quite a while. During our conversations, we frequently discussed how growth in one area can help drive growth in other areas of our life. Additionally, we saw that many professionals across all experience levels were looking for guidance on how to bring their visions to fruition. Having been through the transformational process numerous times in our personal and professional lives, we thought we could help others by sharing our perspective, experiences, and processes around transformation. Finally, while we both are knowledgeable on the topics of data, analytics, business, and strategy, we felt we had value to offer people that went beyond the bounds of our professional focus. One day I said to Jordan “Why don’t we stop talking about doing this podcast and actually do it. Let’s just get going.” A few days later we had published our first podcast.

    Q: How did you find your cohost Jordan Morrow?

    A:Two years ago I had written an article on the topic of data literacy. Somebody had sent it along to Jordan and he reached out to me. Over time we got to know each other pretty well. I am a passionate believer in the power of data literacy, so we hit it off right away and have been friends ever since.

    Q: Who would you like to connect with through this podcast?

    A:Anybody looking to improve their personal and/or professional life. The process of transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across the different areas of our lives. Unfortunately, it isn’t something many of us are trained on, so we may struggle with starting the process.

    The process of transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across the different areas of our lives
    Q: What were the steps leading up to launching look like and challenges you may have faced along the way?

    A:The steps leading up to the creation of the podcast were actually pretty simple. Jordan and I discussed what the central theme of the show was going to be and outlined what the show progression might look like. I took the perspective that we needed to avoid the trap of everything being perfect before we started. We just needed to get started. We would learn along the way. This meant using the tools and resources we had. We record our podcasts using extremely basic equipment that is available to everyone: our phones, headphones, and the Anchor app for easy episode recording. Our cost to get started was $0. As we grow we will evolve our equipment, but what we use works for getting started quickly.

    Q: What helped in finding your voice in the saturated market?

    A:Jordan and I have both carved out pretty distinct voices in our areas of the thought leader arena. Jordan is a thought leader in the strategy and data literacy space. I bring a very unique combination of data, analytics, strategy, and business focus. With us two together, 1 + 1 = 20.

    Q: What does the future hold, what topics can listeners expect?

    A: We will continue to dig into topics that Jordan and I have expertise in, including business strategy, data, and analytics. We will also start interviewing other masters of transformation to hear their thoughts on the processes they embrace to facilitate personal and professional transformation.

    Thank you to Jason and Jordan for sharing their latest venture with us. Listen to Transformation Nation wherever you listen to podcasts on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

    Connect with Jason Krantz & Jordan Morrow

    Connect with Jason on LinkedIn or through Strategy Titan.

    Connect with Jordan on LinkedIn or through Qlik.

    View the Medium article highlighting Transformation Nation here.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    COVID-19 Recovery Analytics: Using the Power of Data Recap

    Every organization and person around the globe has been impacted by the Coronavirus. Companies are looking for new ways to use data and information to plan in their recovery and move their businesses forward successfully in the new environment. Join our virtual lunch ‘n’ learn and hear from leading data experts on key techniques and ways to utilize data to drive your recovery planning to optimize your business.

    Watch Chief Analytics Officer Larry Blackburn and Data Analytics Industry Consultant Rob Wellen of Datatelligent.

    View video highlights from this webinar below!

    Combatting Threats with Advanced Analytics

    Rob Wellen


    Companies are looking to get a better understanding of their business during this difficult time. Critical questions to ask yourself:

    Understand:

    What are the threats and opportunities relating to my business and the local market?

    Optimize:

    How can I optimize my business and better serve my customers?

    How can I reduce risk?

    Act:

    What are the trends for “What if” scenario planning?


    Business Recovery Tracking

    Rob Wellen


    These tools provide business owners with insight on how to make sense of COVID-19 data in relation to their business.

    Localized Impact Map

    This enables companies to integrate COVID-19 case data with their own business data in order to view their business impact and where their customers are located.

    Business Recovery Tracking

    Utilizing this model allows for “What if” scenario planning and trends a business against COVID-19 case trends. Track and make decisions against impact on local markets.


    Data Visualization: Snowflake+ Power BI+ Tableau

    Sam Guererro and Rob Wellen


    Now is a great time for organizations to invest in Cloud and data analytics tools. Rob Wellen, addresses tools that businesses can use for data tracking. What platforms are the most beneficial and commonly for entrepreneurs and small business owners?

    To find out more about the tools discussed in the video:

    Tableau: Data-driven technology allows for improved business intelligence through embedded analytics. An interactive and visual analysis of your company.

    Power BI: Data made visual, view insights at scale and take strategic, actionable steps. Make decisions with confidence with one of the largest and fastest growing intelligence clouds.

    Snowflake: This software supports a multi-cloud strategy, including a cross-cloud approach. Features available through Snowflake include: data exchange, insights and analytics, data engineering, data warehouse modernization and enabling developers.


    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour

    Join us in our virtual happy hour to meet and network with other founders, business owners and Innovation DuPage staff. We will be using breakout rooms to accommodate a more intimate conversation setting. Join us for an opportunity to win a gift card from, local Glen Ellyn restaurant, A Toda Madre.

    Tuesday, May 5th at 4:00 pm

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Stabilize Your Business Foundation in the Downturn Recap

    Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or have recently launched an idea, the implications of COVID-19 are forcing business owners to focus on the basics. Learn how to fundamentally structure your processes in order to gain a greater understanding of how to make critical business decisions during the downturn.

    Hear from Kim Grotto of Grotto Marketing, Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc., Kim and Art Angel from E2A Partners.

    They discuss how to create a stable business foundation by utilizing a combination of strategy, financial best practices, customer personas, pricing, key data collection and marketing strategy.

    Stay tuned for more video highlights from this webinar!

    Focus on What You Control

    Kim Grotto of Grotto Marketing

  • Do not make decisions out of fear, shift your focus to what you can control
  • Having a responsive versus reactive mindset allows for wiser decision making
  • Be mindful of where you invest your time and energy


  • Let Financials Work For You

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.
  • Financial analysis encourages strategic operational planning and decision making
  • Establish a system that encourages financial best practices and recording
  • Let your finances work for you by taking advantage of information they provide
  • Your strategic plans and your financial expectations go hand-in-hand


  • Customer Success vs Business Development

    ID Managing Director Travis Linderman and E2A Partners Kim Angel

  • Ensure that your customers are utilizing your services optimally
  • Direct your focus to current customers which will lead to long-term loyalty and retention
  • Don’t neglect those who already trust you and your product


  • Trending Numbers and What to Do

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.

  • Take a closer look at an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow comparison with Lauren Barron
  • Ask yourself three important questions: Why are my numbers trending the way they are? How did it happen? What am I going to do about it?
  • Utilize these resources to gain a better view of the trends in your business


  • Intimate Knowledge of Your Customer Profile

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.

  • When determining pricing, analyze who you are serving and what their needs are
  • Pricing decisions are influenced by many internal and external factors
  • Cost of goods sold and cost of services may require obtaining various quotes


  • Building Your Strengths & Consistency

    Kim and Art Angel from E2A Partners.

  • Recognize what you are good at and what is working for your business
  • This is not a time to start from scratch, learn to pivot by identifying adjacent services/products
  • Do not assume customers behaviors based on past experiences
  • Realize who you are to the core and how viewers see you


  • Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Making Business Decisions As you Navigate the Downturn Recap

    Missed our last webinar? View: Making Business Decisions as you Navigate the Downturn with Kim Grotto, Lauren Barron, Kim and Art Angel. They are ID members and small business owners discussing topics ranging from marketing to financial planning. Check out the videos below!

    Don’t Miss Our Next Webinar!

    Create a structure upon which to understand and make fundamental business decisions in a time of re-evaluation. Learn how to create a stable business foundation by utilizing a combination of strategy, financial best practices, customer personas, pricing, key data collection, and marketing strategy. Run time: Approximately 60 minutes.

    Part 1: Cash is King

    Kim Grotto and Lauren Barron, Fiercely You

    • “Cash talks and everything else mumbles”
    • Businesses should utilize a 13-week cash flow forecast. This high-level tool can give a cumulative figure of your cash flow or cash burn. In simpler terms, it is reconsolidating your checkbook for your business.
    • Consider your customer demand. If there is a continued need for your product or service but people are not able to access the way they normally would think about other ways you can provide.

    Part2: Marketing

    Kim Grotto, Grotto Marketing

    • “The opportunities are there it is all about how you take advantage of them”.
    • Marketing is far more strategic and methodical than many come to believe. Articulate and communicate their brand, mission, values and products in order to expand their reach, earn revenue, increase loyalty and market share.
    • Know your audience. Prioritize current customers and the needs you can fulfill for them. Stay connected to key partners and employees.
    • Learn about the Four C’s: Cohesiveness, Connection, Communications, and Create and how to apply them to your business.

    Part 3: Hunting for Data!

    Kim Angel and Art Angel, E2A Partners

    • Hunt for data and learn to interpret it. Look for information that you can apply to your business model. It is time to assess the ways in which to drive your business forward. Don’t make assumptions based on past behaviors.
    • The “come to us” mentality for retailers and services is a thing of the past. Your business needs to tune into the “we are there for you” mindset.

    Part 4: Communicating Values through Emails

    Lauren Barron, Kim Grotto, Kim Angel and Art Angel

    • Q: What is the relevance of newsletters and today’s COVID-19 saturated emails? How many emails are too many?
    • A: If the information is relevant and serves value, say it! Take a look and analyze your audience’s pain points, how they are feeling or the message they need to hear?
    • Resend your emails about three days later. Not only that, but you should really put thought into your subject and preview line as well. Grab the readers’ attention and give them a reason to stop and engage.

      Consider your call to action. What response are you looking to get? Drive your content around that goal and then you will know if the email was successful.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Business Idea Competition: Final Round

    Concordia University Chicago will livestream the finals of their CougarTank business idea competition to students, alumni and the startup community. CougarTank encourages young creators to apply their entrepreneurial prowess to bring their innovative ideas to life. Through this competition, students go head-to-head presenting their business models to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and alumni. After conquering multiple rounds of scrutiny, the final five teams have been selected.

    The CougarTank Final Round
    April 17, 2020 – 5:30 to 7:30pm

    Groups will present in the following order:

    Amazing Feet 5:30-5:55pm, Doc In a Box 5:55-6:20pm, Ru, The Toy Guru 6:20-6:45pm, Stylo Closet App 6:45-7:10pm, Sync.Lync 7:10-7:35pm.

    Here is a profile of each emerging company and the founders who are building them:

    Amazing Feet – Nivedita Kadambi & John LeMieux


    Amazing Feet is planning on making big waves in the podiatric industry. The concept is simple – using a 3D scanning device, a podiatrist would scan a patient’s feet and then deliver the resulting images/orthotic corrections through the Amazing Feet app. This technology could give patients the flexibility of purchasing custom shoes on demand.

    Doc in a Box – Brian Harris & Kristen Landon

    Maintain good health while in college with Doc in the Box. Doc in the Box is looking to help full-time, undergraduate students gain easy access to healthcare. This service would utilize technology to suggest self-administered care for non-urgent situations and reduce the stress of finding coverage. The cost would be affordable due to the plan being included in the student’s tuition and fees.

    Ru, The Toy Guru – Emily Hynan & Jason Slusher

    Do you fret about shredded dog toys all over your home? Ru, The Toy Guru has the solution for you. This dog toy company’s concept involves soft, industrial-strength Velcro. Unlike other products on the market, this toy provides a unique, money-saving twist. It is meant to be ripped apart and put back together. Built to endure a profound amount of puppy pulling, owners can simply push the pieces back together each time it “rips”. Let your furry friend play and be rough, without worrying about your wallet.

    Stylo Closet App – Kanwal Irfan

    The Stylo Closet App aims to solve a common dilemma that many face when standing in front of their closet. What do I wear? The app accesses thousands of looks curated specifically for you. How it works: Stylo Closet takes pieces from your wardrobe (uploaded by the user) and generates options based on the clothes you already own. This app differs from its competitors by suggesting trendy hair and makeup ideas. It also connects users to fashion influencers that can inspire personal styling decisions.

    Sync.Lync – Anna Krenz & Antea Pela

    Are you tired of your phone battery dying when you’re on the go? Generate energy with Sync.Lync. This fitness band converts human movement into power for your smartphone. This device pairs to a fitness app with an assortment of workouts and encourages community activity. It also includes a safety feature for emergency situations.

    Stay Connected

    Learn more about Concordia University Chicago’s CougarTank program here.

    Explore the other various programs they have to offer by visiting their website.

    Connect with CUC on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Kim Grotto

    Kim Grotto: Effective Marketing Strategies in Times of Crisis

    Kim Grotto is the Founder and Owner of Grotto Marketing. Grotto Marketing quickly gets to the heart of what’s important, crafts a strategy and builds a system to deliver business growth.

    Below, she provides advice and actionable strategies on how to approach your business marketing in the midst of these tough times.

    Times-and People-Have Changed

    Our current state will last longer than a few weeks. I think it will be at least into the fall, and we should expect about 18 months transition from “before” to “after”. After does not mean back to business as usual. The world is forever changed. Here are a few of my observations:

    We are seeing innovation and adoption at a record pace (examples include food delivery,eLearning and performances). This will only continue as businesses are forced to pivot and adapt or close their doors.

    The longer the uncertainty remains, the more people will face a reckoning of their values, behaviors and habits. Social chatter reveals a renewed focus on hyper-local community, mental well-being, exercising, supporting small business, education, and the arts… with a willingness to pay for it.

    Building an Online Presence

    It is more important than ever to have an online presence. This is the way people will discover you and is an efficient way to communicate in times like these. In some instances, your digital delivery will also be your only revenue stream.

    Focus on the fundamentals. Are you satisfied with your website? Can it deliver your products and services, today? What eCommerce options do you have and how quickly can you build it? Have you claimed your Google and Bing business listing? Do you own all of your social media handles and is your information up to date? How regularly are you communicating? When was the last time you sent an email to your audience?

    A DISRUPTION OF THIS MAGNITUDE OPENS UP MANY OPPORTUNITIES

    With so much of us stuck behind closed doors, computers and phones are the gateway to the outside world. If you’re not interacting online, you’re at risk of being forgotten.

    The Power of Communication

    If your tactic is to outshout everyone else, stop it. There’s always someone willing to yell louder. And if you’re using social media as a billboard, you’ll go unnoticed. With 24/7 news cycle captivating our feeds, you must take a hard look at your communications strategy and adjust it according to today’s conditions:

    Focus on communicating and connecting over your values, not your product. Now more than ever, people are seeking a genuine connection, and they’ll pay attention to those who create it.

    Do not assume people know anything. Do not expect them to connect the dots.

    Deliver digestible chunks of information. In the reactive state we are in, the average person- more than ever- doesn’t have the attention span or capacity to process a long-winded message with multiple takeaway points. Bullet points and 2-3 sentence paragraphs are your friend.

    Concentrate on frequency and repetition. In this environment, it may take 3-5 exposures to your message for someone to take notice and for it to sink-in.

    I will note that audiences seeking thought leadership and evergreen content will have a higher tolerance for well-thought, more in-depth pieces.

    Create a Marketing Strategy

    There’s a reason marketers have one strategy for prospects (acquisition) and one strategy for customers (retention, cross-sell, upsells, referrals). Zero in on your audiences and strategize for them individually.

    Remember: a disruption of this magnitude opens up many opportunities.

    Covid-19 is a pretty big interruption to the usual thought patterns and routines. People’s everyday lives are completely different. Their habits and routines have been turned upside down. They’re searching for answers and sharing information like crazy. And their values and character are being pressure tested.

    Collectively, this opens the door to discovering new solutions and exploring new ways of doing things. There’s an opportunity for awareness and, if the meaning, value, and relevance are there, there’s a willingness to try it out. Think about your prospects and customers as individuals and meet them where they are.

    Lean into Marketing

    Do not cut your marketing budget to zero! I know it’s the go-to expense to pull back on but there are much wider implications to this than simply advertising dollars. Effective marketing encompasses both strategic and tactical execution to drive awareness, consideration, and conversion. If you eliminate it, you’ll not only lower expenses, you’ll simultaneously reduce the opportunity for revenue, growth, and innovation. Now is the time to lean into your marketing. Just make sure you invest in it wisely.

    The following are just a few of the many strategies you can implement into your business to continue to advantage and grow your business. Thank you to Kim Grotto for sharing her insights.

    Stay Up to Date

    Learn more about Grotto Marketing and the ways in which they can help grow your company by visiting their website!

    Connect with Grotto Marketing on Instagram and LinkedIn. Find Kim on LinkedIn.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Lauren Barron: Helping Entrepreneurs Navigate a New Normal

    Lauren Barron received an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management; she is also the founder and co-owner of Gray Matters Games (GMG). GMG is a company that creates lively and cognitively challenging board game experiences for people with active minds. Through its games, Gray Matters promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research. She shares her advice on how to tackle the challenging times ahead.

    Planning Ahead

    COVID-19 and the economic impact it has will fundamentally change the small business landscape. If you are not already, you need to think about this as more than a 2-4 week issue. There will be supply chain shocks that have not yet manifested, consumer confidence may be shaky and people will just operate their day-to-day lives differently. Plan now as if this will impact your business at least through the end of 2020. The good news here is that – if you tackle this head-on, make the tough choices now and consider how COVID-19 can help you adapt your business model, you can absolutely come out of this with a stronger business.

    Do Not be Complacent

    I worked with struggling business owners for 5 years during the last recession, and the ONLY commonality among the businesses who did not make it were that they were complacent – either in their business model, in how they managed their financials or both. I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

    So – the big question on every small business owner’s mind is: Now What?

    I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

    Understanding Customer Demand

    I have put together a list of high-level questions to help you start to take inventory of your situation:

    Is there still demand for my product or service? All of these questions will help you assess flexibility in your revenue line, which is comprised of two main drivers – demand/volume and pricing.

    If the answer is no, consider this: What will customers want when demand returns? OR What does my business offer that’s of value that can drive demand?

    Travel-related businesses are a great example of this – demand is low right now; however, domestic travel is likely to recover quicker than international travel in the coming months. What can you do now to address this forthcoming need? Are there domestic travel packages you can devise that will help people with vacations in late summer or fall this year? If yes, start working on them now.

    If the answer is yes, but people can’t access your business the way they normally do, what can you do to adapt? Move to virtual services, move selling on to your website, offer delivery, curb-side, etc.?

    If the answer is yes, but pricing is a barrier, what can you reasonably charge customers that helps them fit a budget and still covers your costs (at the very least – ideally, still making a profit)?

    I am a huge proponent of charging your worth; however, right now, people need help. Let’s all remember that we are humans doing the best we can and try to be in service to each others’ businesses and success.

    Reassess Your Business

    What is happening in my cost structure? The time is now to reassess every single expense you have on your most recent P&L. What is a variable cost that can be eliminated or reduced now without negatively impacting your ability to operate? What is a fixed cost that can continue in the short term?

    What is a fixed cost that would need to be eliminated if there is a protracted COVID-19 impact or resulting recession? Assess your resources – what can technology do to help you eliminate manual processes or help lower payroll? Where are there opportunities to create other efficiencies in your operations?

    What is the bare minimum you need to operate? Write a list of everything you would have to spend money on to service a baseline of demand. You should know this now, not later.

    Can you seek relief related to utilities, rent or debt payments now? Don’t wait until you really need it – be proactive. Do you have subscription services or other regular expenses that are not necessary right now? Where else can you pivot and adapt on the cost side? What balance sheet risk am I willing to take?

    There is a temptation right now to offer suppliers or customers extended terms. I urge you to think about this VERY carefully before agreeing. Unlike in other recessions, the impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, and unless you have intimate knowledge of a supplier’s financial situation, liquidity and ability to weather this storm, I would encourage you to protect your business as best you can. You have no idea if that supplier will go out of business and won’t be able to pay you in 60 or 90 days. You can always consider Cash on Order or Cash on Delivery as an alternative if you really need supply.

    Show Your Value

    Last point. If you have historically been a “push marketer,” you need to change your message now. The best thing you can do is: (i) show your value to clients and potential clients in their time of need, and (ii) BE IN SERVICE TO THEM – really and truly. Think every day about what’s in it for them and how you can help.

    This list of questions is just the tip of the iceberg on how to navigate an unprecedented time to be a small business owner, but in a situation that can feel paralyzing, I hope it helps give you a start.

    While these times are difficult, emotionally draining and, at times, scary for us all – please know this: there are people like me in your corner ready to assist. You do not have to do this alone – in fact, you shouldn’t. The small business community is a powerhouse of people who care a lot, and we stand ready to serve you. We are one.

    Stay Up to Date

    Learn more about Gray Matters Games and the fun board games they create by visiting their website!

    Connect with Lauren on Instagram and LinkedIn.

    For additional resources, visit our Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19 blog post.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19

    The information in this post was last updated on June 30th, 2020.

    To help entrepreneurs and small business owners find the help they need, we have compiled a list of resources targeted at COVID-19 related business challenges. This list will be updated as new information and resources as they become available.

    The College of DuPage Business Development Center website is being updated daily with information for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance.

    Choose DuPage and DuPage County are coming together to assist small businesses and independent contractors in the DuPage area by offering the Small Business Relief Program. This provides grants to use for employee retention payroll, utilities, and rent.

    See something we missed that should be included? Shoot us a message at ID@InnovationDuPage.org.

    Financial Help

    Loans and Grants

    Main Street Lending Program

    The Federal Reserve Board of Governors acted on June 8 to allow more small and medium-sized businesses to be able to receive federal Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic financial support via low-interest loans. The program will lower the minimum loan amount, raise the maximum loan limit, adjust the principal repayment schedule to begin after two years, and extend the term to five years, providing borrowers with greater flexibility in repaying the loans.

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

    The CARES Act was unanimously passed by Congress on March 27th, 2020 and is the largest economic stimulus package in American history. This act involves multiple areas of assistance and this link will help you better understand what may apply to your small business. For additional information, check out the U.S Chamber of Commerce’s Coronavirus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist’.

    The Paycheck Protection Program is included in the CARES Act. This program is designed to keep small business workers on the payroll. More funds have been replenished and applications are now being accepted. Due to the increase in volume, the site has been experiencing technical difficulties. If you have trouble accessing the site keep checking back. Need help with questions please contact The College of DuPage Business Development Center.

    Small Business Association (SBA) Disaster Relief Loan

    This loan brought to you by the SBA can be used for: Fixed Debts, Accounts Payable, Payroll, other Bills. For more details and information on how to apply, check out our dedicated ‘SBA Disaster Injury Loan’ post.

    Choose DuPage & DuPage County Small Business Relief Program

    In an effort to assist small businesses and independent contractors impacted by COVID-19, DuPage County in conjunction with Choose DuPage is providing grants to use for employee retention payroll, utilities, and rent.

    Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)

    The WBDC knows that access to capital is critical for business success. They provide loans to small businesses who otherwise cannot get a loan from a bank.Loans are available to small businesses located in Northwest Illinois and targeted towards businesses with less than $1 Million in annual revenue.

    Illinois Department of Commerce Loan

    Small businesses are the backbone of the Illinois economy, and the Advantage Illinois program is there to assist. By working with the state’s banking community and venture capitalists, they help entrepreneurs and small businesses.

    Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund

    The Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund will help to provide small businesses with emergency cash flow during this immediate health crisis. Applications will begin to be accepted on March 31, 2020.

    Facebook Small Business Grant Program

    Facebook is offering cash grants and ad credits to businesses that may be experiencing disruptions in these uncertain times. The money given can support your workforce, help with your rent costs, connect with more customers, and cover operational costs.

    Honeycomb Credit

    Community sourced loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 via the crowdfunding platform. Honeycomb is offering 45-day payment free periods, 6-month interest-only periods and reducing their posting, success, and investor fees.

    Worknet DuPage

    Worknet DuPage is providing worker training grants intended to help manage the cost of training new employees through the Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) . This grant is applicable to various industries and occupations including healthcare, information technology, manufacturing, accounting, office & clerical, trucking & logistics, and more.

    Tax Relief

    Research and Development Tax Credit

    A government-sponsored tax incentive that supports businesses that conduct R&D in the United States. The tax credit is more comprehensive than most realize. Businesses of all sizes can apply and do not need research labs to be eligible. The credit is meant to encourage innovation and maintain technical jobs in the U.S.

    IRS Tax Relief

    The IRS has announced the extension of tax filing and federal tax payment deadlines to July 15th. In addition, a plan is in place to implement a Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses.

    Illinois Tax Help

    In an effort to assist eating and drinking establishments impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is waiving any penalty and interest that would have been imposed on late Sales Tax payments from qualified taxpayers.

    What is Available to Employees as a Business Owner?

    COVID-19 Changes to Unemployment Rules

    Unemployment benefits may be available to some individuals whose unemployment is attributable to COVID-19. IDES recently adopted emergency rules to try to make the unemployment insurance system as responsive to the current situation as possible. Please review this link for the information to assist your employees.

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

    This program helps those with low-incomes buy the food needed for good health.

    Tips for Working from Home

    Github’s Guide to Remote Work

    GitHub has curated a remote work emergency toolkit for leaders and managers and a remote work starter guide for employees to assist businesses during this time in order for everyone to maintain optimal productivity and stability.

    Facebook Minimizing Business Disruption During Emergencies

    Facebook is helping workplaces stay connected by helping minimize disruptions to businesses during emergencies. Utilize their multiple channels to stay in touch with customers and employees.

    Video Conferencing Services

    The following are video conferencing resources allowing businesses to stay connected and productive while working remotely.

    Microsoft Resources

    Google Hangouts

    Go to Meeting by LogmeIn

    Zoom

    DuPage County Business Help

    The College of DuPage Business Development Center

    The Illinois SBDC/PTAC/ITC at College of DuPage, as expert advisors, are here to advise and guide small businesses within our community. They post a weekly COVID-19 Small Business Update answering questions they receive.

    1-on-1 Business Mentoring

    Innovation DuPage is offering free 1-on-1 zoom mentoring sessions for all Chicagoland startup founders. What challenges are you facing? We will work through them with you. Get help with Fundraising • Brand Identity • Deck Review • Sales & Marketing Strategy • Customer Discovery Cash Flow & Burn Rate • Value Proposition • Market Research • Business Model Canvas • and MORE.

    Choose DuPage

    Choose DuPage is volunteering their expertise to assist businesses in DuPage County. Get help with Banking, Education, Insurance, Legal, and Marketing. Join the conversation on social media about what businesses and residents are doing to help during these times by using the #DuPageDifference.

    DuPage County Health Department

    A resource in maintaining the health and safety of residence of the DuPage county. Stay up to date on what is happening in your area.

    Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce

    View the WDCC’s informational fliers in relation to COVID-19 and how they are supporting businesses during this time .

    Western Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    The WSSCI is committed to serving regional businesses and community prosperity through best practices, advocacy, access to leaders, economic development, collaboration and business education. Check out their page for a list of resources available to those impacted by COVID-19.

    Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce

    View what professions are considered essential and non-essential along with a list of local grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices and other critical services located near Glen Ellyn.

    New Policies and Legal Resources

    Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

    IDFPR has announced new guidance on license expirations dates, continuing ed deadlines, and more to help licensees maintain their licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    You can find the official press release here .

    Insurance Interruption Coverage

    Your business insurance may contain interruption coverage you can use during COVID-19, learn more by clicking the title.

    Emergency Family & Medical Leave Expansion Act

    On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and signed. These are two provisions providing paid leave to employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Learn more about how this could serve you in the link.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.