The power of friendship and small business to overcome Covid-19 challenges - WKBW-TV

The power of friendship and small business to overcome Covid-19 challenges - WKBW-TV

The power of friendship and small business to overcome Covid-19 challenges - WKBW-TV

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 02:58 PM PDT

BUFFALO, NY & PORTLAND — An idea from a customer at the TreeHouse Toy Store in Buffalo has spread to the West Coast. In the process, it has helped hundreds of underprivileged children get activity supplies while they are stuck at home.

Gaetana Schueckler, who co-owns TreeHouse Toys with her husband Dave, said a loyal customer named "Kari" suggested the toy store collect donations so it could provide free activity items for needy families with children unable to attend school.

"These are people who literally have nothing and are trying to home-school their kids," said Schueckler.

She then mentioned the idea to close friend and fellow toy store owner, Michelle Smith in Portland, Oregon, who thought it was worth trying on a small scale.

"We started with a goal of 25 bags for one school. We have now exceeded 500 bags," added Michelle Smith, owner of Piccolo Mondo Toys in Portland.

Activity Items.jpg
Free children's activity items ready for distribution in Portland, Oregon. The items were bought with community donations to a local toy store, Piccolo Mondo Toys, for needy families with children at home during COVID-19.

Working together, the two women business owners have been able to help hundreds of needy families on both sides of the country. From the business point-of-view, it also helps keep the small businesses in operation by generating some cash flow while their walk-in business is prohibited.

"This is going big here on the West Coast. It all started in New York with a phone call," commented Michelle Smith.

Donations of $25 are made to the toy stores through phone calls or their websites. The stores then use that money to purchase child-friendly activity items such as board games, Lego's, arts and craft supplies, science kits, workbooks and puzzles.

In Portland, the free activity bags are handed-out when parents come to pick-up food at the schools to take home.

In Buffalo, Gaetana and Dave Schueckler provide boxes/totes full of items to "Say Yes Buffalo"(also known as Say Yes to Education Buffalo) which supports more than 500 families locally. Volunteers for Say Yes Buffalo then take the items to the homes.

Volunteers for Say Yes shared these thoughts on the program with The TreeHouse Toy Store:

"I delivered donated games and educational activities to a single mom with several children. A couple months ago, the family had a house fire and experienced tremendous loss. During this time, we have assisted them with food and basic needs donations, but we never thought to provide them with games and activities. When we came to the home with these items, the kids' eyes were so big and they pretty much attacked the donation box! I almost cried. I'm thankful for the donations as this was something I didn't even think about."

"I recently noticed a little girl, who is usually bubbly and very active, seemed depressed and closed-off. She has stated that she misses her friends at school. Overall, she is having a hard time with the restrictions in place. I saw the marshmallow chess game and thought this might be something she would enjoy. When I brought it to her, her eyes lit up and she became that bubbly girl again. I'm so happy we could give her this!!"

"I work with a family that has four children. When you go into the home, they have very little. I asked mom if she would like some games and activities and she immediately responded, "Yes!" I gathered a couple games for the kids to play together and some activities like a doll/clothing set and some clay. I pretty much had to drop and jump back to keep my social distance!! The kids were so excited they immediately opened everything! As I looked around the living space they opened it in, these were literally the only games and toys I could see. Mom was incredibly thankful."

Say yes.jpg
Items purchased with donations to The TreeHouse Toy Store in Buffalo are prepared for delivery to Say Yes Buffalo for free distribution to needy families with children in our area.

Due to the high number of needy families who could still use items for their own children, the two store owners are asking for more $25 donations so they can continue the program.

"All of those donations add-up to something much larger," said Michelle Smith.

"To get phone calls and some online orders for this has given us some purpose every day," added Gaetana Schueckler.

Donations can be made to The TreeHouse Toy Store for distribution in the Buffalo, NY area by clicking on this link.

Donations can be made to Piccolo Mondo Toys for distribution in the Portland, OR area by clicking on this link.

Donation page.png

Both women credit the idea's success to the power of friendship and small business. They also remind the public that supporting local business means local business will be there for you in times of crisis. And like any good idea, this one is being copied. Michelle Smith said other toy stores on the West Coast are now thinking about doing the same thing.

Letter from Los Angeles: The death of small business is a tragedy for Jewish community and democracy - Forward

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 10:33 AM PDT

"Small-scale commercial production is, every moment of every day, giving birth spontaneously to capitalism and the bourgeoisie…wherever there is small business and freedom of trade, capitalism appears."— V.I. Lenin

A great connoisseur as well as sworn enemy of the free market, Vladimir Lenin might smile a bit if he witnessed what is now happening to small businesses in the current Covid-19 pandemic. Even before, America was experiencing falling rates of business formation as well as declining homeownership, particularly among the young. The share of GDP represented by small firms had dropped from 50 to 45% since the 1990s.

Now the current pandemic, and the policies being applied to contain it, are creating a perfect storm that could devastate millions of already struggling businesses. Millions of little firms have been forced to shut down, with some likely not to open before the summer, if ever.

The longer the shutdown continues, the tougher things could become for many of the estimated 30 million small businesses that employ roughly half of all Americans. The prospects are particularly bleak for restaurants, small retail establishments and "personal service" establishments like salons and gyms whose primary selling point against larger firms has been their scale and familiarity with customers. According to the JP Morgan Institute, 50% small businesses have a mere 15 days of cash buffer or less. If the shut down lasts much longer, as many as three-quarters of independent restaurants simply won't make it. In the end, once the fog of the pandemic dies down, we are likely to see a great deal more empty storefronts and many of our beloved local businesses abandoned. And the body count is expected to include high profile names such as Nieman-Marcus, Rite-Aid, AMC Theatres. J. Crew and 24-Hour Fitness.

In contrast, this pandemic could usher in a golden age for efficient, technology-savvy firms like Amazon, as well as better capitalized chains such as McDonalds or Chick-fil-a, which have shifted well to online platforms and are better positioned to return to full business after the disruption. If the shut down lasts much longer, expect your local taco stand to be replaced by the likes of Taco Bell or Chipotle and the family Chinese spot by Panda Express.

"Feudalism with Better Marketing"

Small business has been a critical element in America's remarkable record of ethnic uplift. In America and other western countries, suggests historian Ellis Rivkin, "the fate of the Jew and of Judaism came to hinge on the capitalist revolution" as feudal barriers disappeared. Over the past century other newcomers — Italians, Chinese, Indians, Cubans, Africans to name notable examples — have focused on small business to advance into the middle class. In recent years entrepreneurship has risen most notably among immigrants and, increasingly, women, eager to make their bid for independence and self-sufficiency.

The loss of small firms over the past decade has done much to alter the unique character of many of our great cities. Ethnic shopping districts, like the once vibrant Polish neighborhoods in Chicago, have all but lost their shops and customer base. In New York the once ubiquitous delicatessens and Greek-owned diners are becoming endangered species. The City Journal notes that in Gotham, once home to small, independent restaurants, larger restaurant groups have begun to "dominate the culinary scene."

Yet these concerns are not just those colored by nostalgia for the scent of urban streets past. It is also, perhaps even more so, about the slaughter of suburban small businesses. After all, this is where the ethnic Americans of all stripes have concentrated — 80% of all residents of the country's big metros reside and work in suburbia.

Here the damage includes not only Main Streets but also large shopping complexes and strip malls, the centers that architect Tim Cisneros calls "the immigrants' friend." Now many of these malls face bankruptcies as tenants can no longer pay rent. Even before the pandemic, Center Square Investment Management estimated that 44% of current mall retail space will be either shuttered or repurposed over the next five to seven years.

This is not merely a plea for the little guy, but also a warning about the future. Many of the businesses with Jewish founders started small — Home Depot, The Gap, Costco (originally Price club), the Limited, the Simon Properties and Westfield Corp. mall developers, Broadcom. They later became larger, and many have played a key role in the philanthropic lives of their home cities and the Jewish community. With the decline of the economy, particularly with a long lockdown in key locales, prospects for small businesses to get bigger have diminished. Most face not a bright future, but what the Harvard Business Review calls "an existential threat."

Today's economy does not favor risk taking outsiders. It prefers those already "insiders",like well-financed large restaurant chains that are better equipped to adjust to on-line formats and future social distancing regimes. For most smaller firms— the Panda Expresses of tomorrow, if you will— the future seems bleak. The National Restaurant Association estimates that more than 8 million restaurant employees have been laid off or furloughed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March. This represents more than two-thirds of the 12 million employees that were working at the nation's eating and drinking establishments in February.

Even more than the big chains, the long-term victors will be the big tech giants. Even before the pandemics, firms such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google and Netflix possess market power either together or solely, that covers as much as 80 to 90% of key markets like cellphone operating systems, computer programs, on-line shopping and search.

The pandemic seems likely to bolster their already rapidly growing stranglehold over both the stock market and the economy. Once seen as dominated by risk-taking entrepreneurs starting in a garage and backed by credit card debt, tech has becomes defined by corporate concentration, what one Silicon Valley wag labeled "feudalism with better marketing."

The pandemic will likely accelerate this process. With jobs scarce, these firms now enjoy ever greater ability to recruit tech talent no longer looking for startups. Like Main Street businesses, small entrepreneurial tech firms are losing out to their giant competitors or forced to accept subordinate status.

The biggest threat

More maddening for small business people is seeing funds flow to owners of luxury real estate, hedge funds and brokerages. The Indian-born owner of our local UPS franchise said that while bailouts are going to major corporations, his business was turned down for a loan. Small restaurants have been allowed to struggle while funds are diverted to better funded, better connected business like the Ruth Criss and Potbelly chains , which have access as well to Wall Street's money. Many big firms like Papa John, KFC, Wendy's needed the money since they spent so much of their cash on "buybacks" of their own stock, and now are asking taxpayers to fill their self-inflicted cash shortages.

What's at stake is not just a change in the business landscape, but the social disaster that the collapse of small businesses could bring. After all it is the local businessperson who is most likely to support the soccer or baseball team in your town. And in ethnic communities— Jewish, Chinese, Indian, West Indian, Latino— it is the entrepreneur who funds the local church, temple, and school that serves their communities. To be sure, large companies donate as well, but their operatives often are temporary residents of towns and communities; their primary loyalties are to their firms, not their neighbors or ethnic group.

This has always been particularly critical for Jews, who in their long history, have learned the benefits of communal self-reliance. "Seeest thou a man diligent in his business?" asks Proverbs (22:29) "He shall stand before kings." In our history it has been the entrepreneurs —- the Rothschilds, Bronfmans, Lauders, Lowys, Adelsons, Marcus'— who have provided critical support for such things as the State of Israel, Jewish education and the battle against anti-Semitism.

Now that support is threatened as business prospects fade. Jewish philanthropy, like that of others, is in free fall, and the old-line money cannot by itself stem the tide. Right now the JCCs and other Jewish organizations are bracing for major cutbacks. To survive this economic downturn, Jewish organizations, synagogues and schools need more than legacy money— they require the contribution and energy of those still on the way up. An entrepreneurial bloodbath will become a communal disaster.

Yet we should not forget that devastating small business is not just about the fate of our economy or our philanthropy. It is also about the nature of our society and the durability of our Republic's institutions. Throughout history, as Aristotle noted, independent proprietors have been the driving force for self-government and republican order. Aristotle also warned about the dangers of an oligarchy that would control both the economy and the state. Ultimately, ever greater consolidation of wealth played a major role in undermining Greek democracy and the citizen-led Roman Republic. When the small proprietor declines, as in ancient Greece and Rome, and now in America, we see the irrepressible rise of oligarchy.

This suggests for political and social as well as economic reasons, it is imperative to find ways to help Main Street survive. A country dominated by a small group of mega-corporations and an ever more intrusive state may retain the forms of a republican democracy, but will become essentially ever more feudal, repressive and constrained.

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His next book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, will be out from Encounter late this spring. You can follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin

OPINION: Small-scale growers are key to the future of the sugar industry - IOL

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 05:10 AM PDT

JOHANNESBURG - As the country moves into level four lockdown this week, the sugar industry along with the rest of the agriculture sector, remains committed to ensuring food security during these unprecedented times.
The South African Canegrowers Association has been tirelessly supporting its members to ensure business continuity while safeguarding the health and safety of farmers, farm workers and the communities they work in.
The Association also recognises that Covid-19 poses particular risks to the agriculture sector, most especially small-scale farmers. These risks include the availability of farm labour, the disruption of markets for farm products and new financial challenges.

Montgomery leaders launch one-stop hub for small business support - Alabama NewsCenter

Posted: 30 Apr 2020 09:01 AM PDT

Montgomery's elected and business leaders have launched the Recover Together Small Business HUB (Helping Business Unite), a free, one-stop clearinghouse to connect small and minority businesses to the resources and information they need as they emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

This public-private collaboration is an early outcome of Mayor L. Steven Reed's Economic Impact Task Force.

"From the very first meeting, task force members kept coming back to what was the most pressing need on everyone's mind – finding ways to help local small businesses recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and be able to talk to someone locally that could point them in the right direction," said Charles Jinright, Montgomery City Council president and chairman of the Economic Impact Task Force.

A communications, counseling and case management vehicle, the Recover Together Small Business HUB will provide a free clearinghouse service to help identify and prioritize small business requests, and connect those small businesses to the resources they need most.

"We will have a virtual helpdesk for small business, where our frontline HUB team members can triage incoming requests and then either handle that request immediately or connect that inquiry to a one-on-one counseling session targeted at their specific needs," said Chamber Chairman Arthur DuCote. "In the upcoming weeks, our goal is to scale this program to reach as many small businesses in our community as possible, and to include even more resource partners."

"Our local small businesses are the heart of our community, and they need to find one-on-one assistance to guide them right now and moving forward," said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman and task force co-chair. "A one-stop hub for small business was the kind of real relief local small businesses need."

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, The City of Montgomery, Montgomery County Commission and the Small Business Development Center at Alabama State University are the founding partners of the new initiative.

"I want to thank the members of the Economic Impact Task Force for their leadership," said Mayor Steven Reed. "It's important that we help businesses get back on their feet, so they can be positioned to provide the vital services and products needed for our economic recovery."

In addition to receiving requests for help, the HUB will be initiating community outreach to engage small and minority-owned businesses across Montgomery.

"Ongoing collaboration and engagement of our small business community through the Hub will be a powerful catalyst for economic growth and entrepreneurial support as we move from recovery into resiliency and beyond," said Chamber Chairman DuCote.

Small businesses in need of assistance should call 334-226-7529. Organizations and companies interested in joining the Hub as a resource collaboration partner can contact the chamber at 334-834-5200.

Interested parties who complete and submit an online form will have a Hub specialist reach out to them within 24 hours. The chamber is creating a database of companies needing assistance and the Small Business HUB will maintain communication with them as the recovery process continues and new opportunities arise.

For more information about growing a business in Montgomery, visit the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.


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