Small businesses are critical drivers of job growth and innovation for local economies, employing nearly half of the United States’ private workforce. But according to one study, it is possible that between 25% and 36% could close permanently as a result of the disruption from just the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The startup world thrives off of shared ideas, contacts and networking, making it incredibly important that we find a way to keep our relationships with the business community going from a distance,” Price says.
ShearShare — shaking up the salon and barbershop industry and the gig economy
Another firm believer in collaboration between established companies and startups is ShearShare, co-founded by Courtney Caldwell and husband Dr. Tye.
ShearShare is a mobile B2B platform that matches salon and barbershop owners with hair, skin and nail technicians seeking to rent professional space to work by the day. The app allows owners with excess salon or shop space to generate income that otherwise would be lost, while also giving stylists the opportunity to cater to their clients in convenient, safe locations without having to sign long-term lease contracts.
In building their successful startup, Courtney notes she and Tye received timely mentoring along the way, including very recently from a local source.
“I met with Capital One small business banker Yolanda Bryson-Durant for a coaching session, and her feedback was invaluable,” Caldwell says.
When COVID-19 essentially shut down the American economy in March, ShearShare’s bookings initially fell to zero, yet they did not have to lay off or furlough any employees. Instead, they pivoted to focus on helping ShearSharers transition portions of their retail business online through the app’s virtual beauty supply store, improving their mobile platform, and business education, for example, helping more than 100 owners and stylists secure needed funding through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
They have also added other B2B resources to their platform, including the purchase of professional liability insurance that follows stylists wherever they practice, daily specials on rental spaces, an expanded list of hosts seeking stylists for their salons and frequent blog postings containing a wealth of mentoring-type information on ways stylists can grow and manage their small businesses.
Courtney believes there is one basic, essential way to make a difference right now: support local businesses.
“Choose to spend money with a local small business,” she urges. “And if you know the business owner, offer a word of encouragement during this trying time. Once you make the decision to buy from a small business owner, that relational currency sparks hope that refuels our local economies.”