Economic First Responders

This article was originally published on The Daily Herald Business Ledger on May 13, 2020 titled “Working Together to Keep Business as Usual.”

During these critical times, a network of Economic First Responders is needed more than ever before. Joseph Cassidy, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development and Dean of Continuing Education and Public Services at College of DuPage shares the work of economic development agencies and the resources that are available for the small business community.

Key Takeaways

  • Economic development agencies are adjusting swiftly to changing demands by transitioning their resources and programs online
  • Local organizations such as Choose DuPage, workNet DuPage and College of DuPage Business Development Center are contributing business support services
  • Supporting small businesses and uniting as a community will help move us forward
  • Working Together to Keep Business as Usual: Dean Cassidy

    The Great Lockdown in response to the coronavirus will likely lead to a recession that is more severe than that of 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. While a highly educated workforce, a diversified set of industry clusters and strong municipal and county leadership have mitigated impact, it is clear that we are all going to have to work together to support the small businesses that will drive economic recovery.

    Collaboration between regional workforce boards like workNet DuPage, economic development agencies like Choose DuPage and College of DuPage’s Business Development Center (BDC) is critical. These entities are working with regional chambers of commerce, the business incubator/accelerator known as Innovation DuPage (ID) and a number of colleges and universities to continue the necessary support of the small businesses that are impacted most during these uncertain times. COD’s BDC houses the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Illinois International Trade Center.

    The BDC Center staff is working around the clock to help companies apply for payroll protection, business loans and to develop contingency plans while seeking to expand revenue streams. In fact, the BDC offered over 42 webinars, served hundreds of clients with over 500 hours of free consultation since mid-March.

    Undoubtedly, the closure of society followed by a gradual reopening to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will have dramatic and negative consequences on both large and small businesses.

    We encourage everyone to support the small businesses that make the region unique. At the same time, we see opportunity as new business ideas, products and modes of delivery are created in response to the closures and continuing public health safety precautions. Innovation DuPage reports higher than normal client volume as startups consider new business opportunities and young companies look for guidance in navigating these unprecedented times.

    While these economic development partners miss the face-to-face connection with clients and members, each has moved services and resources online to support business continuity.

    We see opportunity as new business ideas, products and modes of delivery are created in response to the closure

    The DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau is offering virtual tours of area attractions to help residents and businesses connect even while social distancing keeps us apart.

    Choose DuPage, and workNet DuPage, along with chambers of commerce, the BDC and ID are also conducting webinars, Zoom meetings and virtual meetups to continue learning and connection across our regional business ecosystem.

    For instance, the COD BDC and the Naperville Chamber of Commerce offered “Small Business Current Financial Disaster Relief” as a webinar, and Innovation DuPage sponsored Concordia University’s “Cougar Tank” virtual student pitch contest.

    ID, COD Business Solutions and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association are collaborating on two new programs to further diversify the talent pool for both new and mature construction companies.

    COD Adult Education, the BDC and ID are collaborating on an entrepreneurship course for English language learners. The partners and clients have been extremely flexible, as all of these efforts were moved online and are continuing quite successfully. This agility and willingness to collaborate are critical to recovery.

    Almost overnight, schools moved thousands of courses from on ground to online. The challenges to staff and faculty alike are immense, but these efforts, when assessed and refined, will ultimately promote increased efficiency and improve pedagogy.

    College of DuPage is gearing up to serve not only the students who were planning on attending this fall, but also those who may be hesitant to go away to school at this time.

    I’ve witnessed an aligning of leaders and philosophies over the past several years in support of regional cooperation in the area of economic development — I think this needs to continue into the future, with large and small companies, municipalities, colleges and universities continuing the shift to a ‘coopetition’ model which benefits the whole as well as the individual organization. As we seek out the new normal while working in this quickly shifting environment, we need to stay alert for new opportunities. Through heightened collaboration and synergy, we will move from surviving to thriving in the months to come.

    Thank you to Dean Cassidy for featuring ID in the many entities that are ready to serve the community. Together we are boundless.

    Connect with Dean Joe Cassidy on Linkedin.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, 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.

    Innovation DuPage Reopening Guidelines

    This is a living document that will be updated as guidance evolves. Please check back often to ensure you are working with the most up-to-date information. We are all working through the ever-fluctuating news and regular changes to the COVID-19 State guidelines.

    The ID Community should note that Innovation DuPage continues to deliver many services virtually over Zoom and Slack.

    Current Phase: 4

    GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  • The health and safety of the ID Community as a whole is our top priority. We will foster a culture of safety.
  • We will follow science and the guidance of experts. We will not lead on this, but lag in moving from phase to phase as we learn from others.
  • We will err on the side of more restrictive measures at the outset and relax them as we can. Returning to the office space is a privilege and carries responsibilities each of us has to one another.
  • IDHQ Modifications

    The safety of the ID Members, ID Team and the public who visit our facility remains our top priority. As such, members and visitors who must conduct business in person will notice changes when entering the facility in following the Illinois Department of Health guidance for reopening public spaces:

    1. Face coverings are required for all visitors to Village of Glen Ellyn facilities.
    2. Social distancing measures are in place requiring at least 6 feet of distance between all members, visitors and staff.
    3. All visitors must enter only through the north entrance of the Glen Ellyn Civic Center (on Duane Street) using the center door. Remaining doors can only be used as emergency exits.
    4. The ID slash card do not work on any other doors in the GE Civic Center.
    5. There are partitions at the public-facing department counters in the Civic Center to protect visitors and staff, and hand sanitizer is available for use.
    6. IDHQ’s front door at the top of our stairs will remain closed all day from 8am – 4pm. Members will need to utilize their re-activated slash cards in order to enter the facility.
    7. Innovation DuPage’s hours match the Glen Ellyn Civic Center hours 8am – 4pm. We have an additional 30 minutes to exit the building before the doors are locked at 4:30pm.
    8. There are plastic partitions between working spaces (at least 6-feet apart) throughout IDHQ and the flow of traffic is directed per signage.
    9. Seating is assigned by individual company and cannot be used on a first-come first-served basis.
    10. Conference room usage needs to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance directly with staff.

    The ID Team

    To help maintain the limited capacity restrictions, between 1 – 4 ID team members will work in the shared space at any given time on a semi-regular basis, with the rest continuing to work remotely. The Director of Operations is present on a regular basis.

    Travis Linderman (Managing Director) holds 1-on-1 Zoom consultations from 10am – 3pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and most Fridays. You can schedule them here.

    Travis will be at IDHQ each Wednesday to meet with Members individually and tour new startups.

    Business Hours

    Business Hours During Phase 4, revised business hours of Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm are in effect to promote the safety of our on-site team, and to correlate with the hours that the Glen Ellyn Civic Center is open to the public. IDHQ is not open on Saturdays and Sundays. There are no evening hours. We are monitoring the visiting patterns of our community and will adjust as needed to promote a safe environment for everyone.

    Entrance and Exits

    All members must enter only through the north entrance of the Civic Center (on Duane Street), using the center door. We are encouraging one-way traffic as much as possible to reduce the chance of congestion. Please follow signage in the office. Slash card access continue to be turned off to the doors outside – but work on the door to enter IDHQ. Social distancing measures are in place.

    Movement

    Each ID Team Member is housed in a closed-door office. It is your responsibility to check in with one of them when you arrive – so that your temperature can be taken. A blue line has been set up – to ensure that a 6 foot distance from the office doors are maintained until both you and the ID Team Member can ensure that the temperature protocol does not signal a problem and that masks are secured properly. Conversations with ID Team Members require that ID Members stay behind this blue line, unless agreed upon separately.

    When You Arrive Each Day

    Movement throughout the space is dictated by one-way directional signage. Please follow the signs to prevent congestion or pinch points where physical distancing could be compromised. Blue tape has been placed throughout the space to help build guardrails for social distancing and protect any member that is sitting down from all directions.

    Doors

    All interior doors, including conference rooms, are propped open to limit touch points and improve air circulation. Unless absolutely necessary, please do not close these doors. If you must close the door for privacy, limit your time in the room and wipe down the surfaces and door handles upon exiting

    Kitchen Access

    The refrigerator, microwave, cutlery and dishware are not available for use in this phase to minimize touch points. Go support a local Glen Ellyn restaurant.

    Supplies

    We have hand-sanitizer and antibacterial wipes throughout the space for your use. Additionally, ID Team Members frequently cleaning shared surfaces throughout the day and GE Village staff clean and wipe down all surfaces each evening.

    Events

    All events will be virtual until further notice. Webinars will run more frequently in later Fall.

    Per ID guidelines, no gatherings larger than 10 are allowed. We are utilizing the event space for additional company seating. Unfortunately, this means no events, large team meetings, happy hours, shared meals, or social gatherings are permitted on Innovation DuPage premises. During July and August we will not have Stand-ups, Workshops or any other in-person events.

    Parking

    The Parking Deck Construction has begun – therefore all parking behind the GE Civic Center has been eliminated and the rear entrances have been shut off for the remainder of 2020. We will keep you informed on the timeline of construction as we learn more. New parking passes will be distributed for the summer and available parking lots will be highlighted through a separate document.

    Shared and Reserved Space

    Restrictions will require us to designate specific rooms and/or desks to each company. Conference room usage needs to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance directly with staff. Therefore, for those of you who are comfortable in returning, we need to know how many members to expect and how frequently you would intend to use IDHQ.

    Once capacity is reached, we will send an alert on our Slack channel (#announcements). Please monitor this channel, if you arrive after capacity is reached, you will not be allowed entry to the space. Email iduramk@innovationdupage.org if you need help joining ID’s slack workspace.

    Visitors

    To exercise caution, our space is only open to Innovation DuPage keycard holders and our team at this time. ID Members are responsible to inform the ID Team when Clients will be visiting the building – in order to conduct the same health screening that all members go through each day. We will continually monitor this guideline and will notify you when we are able to relax this safety measure.

    Seating and Conference Rooms

    Seating and conference rooms have been reconfigured to a very limited capacity and spaced (at least 6-feet apart) for physical distancing. Whenever possible, doors are required to be kept open to provide proper ventilation. Additionally, the facility is set-up for maximum social distancing. Some rooms have been taken offline completely. Conference rooms are available for booking meetings of a limited number of people depending on the capacity that each room allows. Members cannot move chairs or tables without consent from ID staff.

    PROTOCOLS:

    We require the following safety measures to be taken by everyone in the space:

    Do not come into the space if you are sick, you WILL be turned away.

    This is a good CDC reference for self-checking symptoms. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. For the sake of other visitors to Village facilities, IDHQ and our staff, we ask that you please stay home if you or a member of your family are currently ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 including but not limited to:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Bluish lips of face
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Temperature Check and Health Screen

    Upon arrival, an ID Team Member will take your temperature and you will be responsible for answering a series of short health questions. This includes your good-faith certification that you are not presenting any of the commonly known symptoms of COVID-19. This enables us to promote a safe environment for everyone in the space. Be aware that health monitoring including temperature checks will be a feature until deemed unnecessary by ID staff.

    Hygiene

    Please practice good hygiene to protect yourself and others — there is signage as a reminder of best practices.

    Face Coverings

    Face protection/face coverings that cover both the mouth AND nose are required all times in the facility. If you need a resource for ordering face protection, please contact us at ID@InnovationDuPage.org beforehand. We do have masks on reserve in case of an emergency. Please bring your own mask. Also, if you have a favorite sanitizer – bring it.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, 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.

    The Power of We

    Key Takeaways

  • Economic development agencies are continuing to take actionable steps to help local businesses by providing resources and assistance
  • ID and our partners strive to support diverse communities and their businesses with employment and financial opportunities for POC
  • All entities are committed to serving the entrepreneurial community and coming together, boundless by the Power of We
  • Connect to entrepreneurial support services starting with a 1-on-1 consultation.

    The success or failure of a small business often depends on the individual at the helm of the venture. However, a natural problem arises when these entrepreneurs are exposed to new business responsibilities outside of their experience portfolio. Strategic planning, managing finances, utilizing digital marketing channels and establishing proper sales processes are only a few of the obstacles that business owners face. All these disparate areas challenge the entrepreneur’s individual ability to succeed. These difficulties are only amplified by the public health crisis that we are currently facing.

    Fortunately, operating your own business does not have to mean going it alone. There are regional organizations that collaborate to provide you and your business with the support services you need. This critical network of Business First Responders was recently highlighted in the Business Ledger’s article, “Working Together to Keep Business as Usual”.

    Pre-Downturn Collaboration

    It didn’t take COVID-19 to usher in the level of collaboration that we are experiencing during this downturn- the seeds for these channels were planted well before that. Innovation DuPage was created to act as the connective tissue of our region’s entrepreneurial support services. In its first year in business, ID focused on connecting founders to regional resources. This gives entrepreneurs the ability to scale at a faster pace without the steep price tag.

    Gray Matters Games (GMG), a board game company and inaugural ID member, is the perfect example of what these partnerships are able to accomplish. They worked with students in a marketing and strategy class at Elmhurst College on a launch plan for their game “Office Decathlon.” Through this relationship, GMG also hired a marketing intern from the College. At the College of DuPage (COD), GMG collaborated with a team of students from the graphic design program and brought their latest game “Alphabet Race” from concept to testing stage. Once again, this connection led the company to a new hire – a brilliant design contractor that’s been helping them on a number of projects. But that’s not all. Through ID, GMG linked up with the Executive MBA program at Northern Illinois University to create an international marketing plan. This will give GMG an opportunity to diversify their offerings and expand their retail footprint.

    When the world seemed to turn upside down, the interlocked relationships have helped to keep companies afloat. Regional economic development organizations came together to offer business owners a ‘breath of fresh air’ while the concept of a ‘new normal’ became inescapable.

    Operating in a Time of Dramatic Change

    “Collaboration between regional workforce boards like workNet DuPage, economic development agencies like Choose DuPage and College of DuPage’s Business Development Center (BDC) is critical. These entities are working with regional chambers of commerce, the business incubator Innovation DuPage (ID) and a number of colleges and universities to continue the necessary support of the small businesses that are impacted most during these uncertain times.”

    As the COVID-19 crisis enveloped the country, the COD Business Development Center was the first on the front lines to assist businesses in our community. The rush for financial relief was focused on “[helping] companies apply for payroll protection, business loans and develop contingency plans”. Since mid-March, they have assisted hundreds of clients and have run 29 webinars. They are a lifeline of support at a time when assistance is needed more than ever before.

    Choose DuPage similarly took up the call to action. When the federal government’s dollars allocated toward the Payment Protection Program (PPP) and the Emergency Disaster Injury Loans (EDIL) dried up, small business owners had few places to turn to. Choose DuPage and DuPage County’s response was to launch the Small Business Relief Program. County businesses were given an opportunity to apply for grants that assisted with employee retention payroll, utilities and rent. Meant for businesses with less than 15 employees, the $1.5 million dollars allocated toward the program gave small business owners yet another opportunity to stay afloat.

    The County’s workforce development agency, workNet DuPage, was at the forefront as well. They provided employers with training assistance to retrain their internal talent pool, assisted with recruitment support efforts and offered a number of resources to assist business owners. They performed all of these functions all whilst helping job seekers connect with funding for job training and aiding laid-off workers in applying for unemployment insurance.

    The list of support services goes on and on. What is most important is not the individual work that these organizations have carried out, it is the collective effort behind them. Though none of these organizations can fully mitigate the impact of this global pandemic, together they are able to minimize the long-term repercussions.

    Inclusion of Diverse Communities

    Our responsibility to support small business owners from minority communities is critical. They are suffering from this public health and economic crisis disproportionately. Resources and programs to help bolster their businesses will help to increase employment and financial opportunities for POC communities.

    The COD Continuing Education department, BDC and ID are collaborating on English Learning Acquisition Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System (ELA ICAPS) business classes. Program participants are first-generation immigrants who either have established businesses or are aspiring entrepreneurs. The course covers vital business topics including leadership, strategic planning, finance and sales. Simultaneously, participants are receiving incubation services from Innovation DuPage that includes 24/7 access to our coworking space (under ‘normal’ circumstances), mentorship and webinars/workshops. Though this program was originally slated to take place in-person, the necessary adjustments were made to continue delivery of high-quality instruction online.

    The Construction Industry Owner-to-CEO program is a collaborative effort put forth by the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) and ID. This offering is geared towards assisting POC, female and veteran-owned construction businesses. Subject areas include: contract bid process, project management, insurance & bonding and finance. Like so many others during this pandemic, the construction industry has been hit hard. Paving a path toward recovery will not be easy for any of these businesses. It will require an increased understanding of their industry, connections to new opportunities and support from peers and mentors. These are the very tenets of the Owner-to-CEO program.

    An Eye Toward the Future

    Though social distancing keeps us physically further apart, regional economic development agencies and partners are coming closer together than ever before. Together, we are dedicated to serving the entrepreneurial community. We will continue our work to bring you the high-quality programs you need. No matter what new challenges arise, we will be here to help guide you through.

    The small business community is made up of our neighbors, friends and family members. When the community comes together with a resolve to adapt and innovate, the Power of We is boundless.

    Connect with Us

    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.

    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.

    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 September 17th, 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.

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

    Financial Help

    Loans and Grants

    Business Interruption Grants Program (BIG)

    The Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program is a $636 million program developed by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly to provide economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19. Applications for a second round of funding are set to go live September 17. A total of $220 million will be made available for small businesses of all types in Illinois. Funding may be used to help businesses with working capital expenses, including payroll costs; rent; utilities; and other eligible operational costs.

    SoGal Black Founder Startup Grant

    SoGal Foundation partnered with Winky Lux, bluemercury, twelveNYC, Lively and other sponsors to provide several $5,000 and $10,000 cash grants to Black women or nonbinary entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19.

    GoFundMe Small Business Relief

    GoFundMe is offering matching grants of up to $500 to help small businesses that have created a fundraiser through the Small Business Relief Initiative or had an existing GoFundMe fundraiser.

    WomensNet Amber Grant

    WomensNet distributes $1,000 monthly grants to women with small businesses, for a total of at least $10,000 every month. They’ve also expanded their grant-giving to include a year-end grant of $25,000. Deadline: Rolling

    Red Backpack Fund

    GSpanx and The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation teamed up with GlobalGiving to establish The Red Backpack Fund, making at least 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19. Rolling Deadline

    Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) grants

    Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the MBDA helps minority-owned businesses access the resources they need to grow, with regular grant competitions. Visit their site for information on various current opportunities. Rolling Deadline

    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.

    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 is offering tax help for taxpayers, businesses, tax-exempt organizations and others – including health plans – affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

    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 .

    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.