Chamber rolls out small business app early | Covid-19 - Mesabi Daily News

Chamber rolls out small business app early | Covid-19 - Mesabi Daily News


Chamber rolls out small business app early | Covid-19 - Mesabi Daily News

Posted: 29 Apr 2020 06:00 PM PDT

IRON RANGE — The Laurentian Chamber of Commerce had planned to roll out its #ShopTheRange mobile app leading up to this year's Small Business Saturday at the end of November.

But with "a lot of small businesses hurting" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the chamber decided to launch the application now, said the app's developer, Brad Gustafson, vice ambassador chairman of the chamber's Business Development Committee.

The app, available for both iPhone and Android, is currently supporting chamber businesses and "helping them survive during this challenging time," he said.

The app has several features, including a listing and Google map of all chamber businesses; information on hours, phone numbers, addresses and websites; and push notifications of business promotions.

It's a helpful tool during the pandemic as "a means of getting the word out" if a restaurant, for example, is offering curbside pickup or a special, Gustafson said.

He had never developed an app before, and #ShopTheRange remains a work in progress, he said.

But it offers many possibilities. For instance, Gustafson said, a user could log in to the check-in feature while picking up a take-out meal at an eatery, and that business could offer a give-away each week for everyone who checked in.

"We are really excited to get this out there and get feedback from the community and businesses," he said.

The chamber first introduced the hashtag #ShopTheRange for 2016's Small Business Saturday, held nationally the day after Black Friday to promote small businesses. The hashtag was created to urge the community to shop locally, and businesses have been encouraged to include the hashtag in their advertisements.

As restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted, other features of the app will come in handy, including an events section, Gustafson said.

Users can also save businesses and promotions to a "favorites" folder.

"Part of role of a chamber is to promote its member business," especially during a challenging time, said Vicki Hagberg, president of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce.

Both chambers are doing just that during the pandemic.

"Each chamber has its own way to approach things when they come up," Hagberg said. The Hibbing chamber sent out a survey in mid-March, "asking businesses what they thought they'd be needing as the situation around the coronavirus developed."

The "main concerns" regarded cash flow if the business was closed or had reduced revenue, as well as the need for reliable information, Hagberg said.

Small business owners are already overwhelmed with running their businesses, and it can be difficult for them to keep track of the many programs and changes taking place during the pandemic, she noted.

The chamber responded by sending frequent email updates to member businesses containing links to available relief and grant programs and other materials "to help them digest the vast amount of info out there," Hagberg said.

The reaction has been "overwhelmingly positive," she said.

The chamber wanted the wider business and residential community to also have access to pertinent information and created a coronavirus resource guide on its website, which includes links providing information about restaurants and retail and other businesses that are currently open, but may have adjusted hours or ways of distributing goods.

The guide is also "a credible source of information" about loan programs and health and other resources.

The Laurentian Chamber of Commerce — which serves the Quad Cities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert and Mountain Iron and surrounding communities — likewise has a COVID-19 resource page on its website, filled with information on available small business loans, tax changes, and employer and employee sources.

The LCC additionally provides a daily COVID-19 policy update on the site and has links to Minnesota Chamber of Commerce webinars.

Tammy Wersal, LCC office manger and event coordinator, said she sends out email blasts to member businesses for training webinars, and any such links from the Northland Foundation, Small Business Administration or Department of Employment and Economic Development.

She is also working to connect with Tech Tank in Hibbing, a shared office space that includes conference rooms, to collaborate on trainings sponsored there.

Both chambers have taken to Facebook to further share information with the business community and public.

Hagberg recently posted a video explaining and clarifying unemployment benefits in the state for self-employed individuals and independent contractors.

The Hibbing chamber has also offered various training sessions on topics such as conducting a video conference. Prior to the pandemic, some business owners had never used such a platform, she said.

"We have also been working closely with local, state and federal legislators" to express the challenges small businesses are facing "so they can develop programs," Hagberg said. "We are being the voice of businesses. It's one of the ways we can have the biggest impact on businesses right now."

Wersal said LCC Board Chairman Rick Crum intends to reach out to some members "to check in on them and see what their needs are, what we can do for them."

And when the new LCC president, Erik Holmstrom, takes over May 4, he may have additional ideas on how to connect with businesses during this challenging time, Wersal said.

While it's difficult to predict the outlook for the local business community come Small Business Saturday, the chamber will continue to serve its members as restrictions and guidelines continue to shift as the virus outbreak develops.

And Gustafson said he is looking forward to gearing the #ShopTheRange app to the changing needs of local businesses.

Free webinar series for small business owners, registration beings 10 a.m., April... - Islands' Sounder

Posted: 29 Apr 2020 01:30 AM PDT

Submitted by the Washington State Department of Commerce

The Washington State Department of Commerce has partnered with the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) to offer a new version of the EDC's highly successful ScaleUp program aimed at helping small business owners move forward through the COVID-19 crisis.

"ScaleUp provides actionable ideas to help small business owners right now to weather the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic and develop resiliency for the future," said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. "This is just one of the new programs we are creating to support small businesses and strengthen communities throughout the state."

Who should apply?

"ScaleUp: The COVID-19 Edition," will provide up to 100 owners with strategies, tools and best practices to move their businesses forward in the face of a global pandemic. Businesses that have been in business for at least two years and have revenues in excess of $100,000 will receive the most benefit from the ScaleUp curriculum and are encouraged to apply. Commerce provides a full ecosystem of small business programs, each targeted to a particular life stage, from start-up to second-stage growth and beyond.

ScaleUp helps business owners gain skills by strengthening strategic thinking, building systems thinking, increasing the effectiveness of marketing strategies and providing a variety of tips and tools that lead to greater profitability. ScaleUp includes a virtual classroom training, connection to a network of peers, and access to resources and mentors. Daryl Murrow teaches the course, which is based on Kauffman Family Foundation's curriculum.

How to Apply

Applications to the program will be accepted beginning at 10 a.m. on April 30 at http://bit.ly/wa-scaleup. This special webinar series begins May 6 and runs through July 8. Virtual classroom sessions are held from 8:30 a.m. to noon each week. A special Study Hall session is held on Mondays to provide enrolled companies with individualized assistance.

There is no cost to qualifying businesses. For more information, contact James Davis, jdavis@thurstonedc.com, or 360-464-6051. Register at http://bit.ly/wa-scaleup.

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