By: Emily Heintz, Founder & Managing Director, EntryPoint
EntryPoint is a nonprofit that partners with organizations to deliver comprehensive research insights and implement effective data-driven programs that promote entrepreneurship across the Midwest. We are also a small business.
In the course of our work, we talk to startups and small businesses daily – we study obstacles they face, capital availability, and are constantly thinking through how community-focused organizations can effectively clear roadblocks and support entrepreneurs and business leaders as they operate and grow their companies. When COVID-19 hit, I, along with the rest of my fellow business owners, was nervous. Not only was I worried about my family and this unknown force sweeping across the planet, but also: How was I going to do business development, host events, participate in programs, support the community, and continue to pay my team? And, how was I going to do all of that with one and three-year-olds at home and a spouse that works full time as well?
Adjusting to shelter-in-place…
The first few weeks of shelter-in-place, I had many nights where I was up until 2am working and wringing my hands and just reminding myself that we have a home, food, and are all healthy so we have the privilege of being able to handle what may come. Fortunately for me and my team, we work remotely regularly and already have QuickBooks online, Dropbox, a website and social media pages we could leverage. Luckily, while half of the work we partner on is implementing programs and that is a challenge right now due to social distancing, the other half is NOT in person – half of our time is spend doing extensive research about the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As we started shifting our mindset in anticipation of social distancing being a longer-term way of life, I had many conversations with other business leaders about our common struggles, layoffs, the ways they were pivoting their businesses, how prepared they were for working remotely, for what COVID-19 relief programs they were applying, and who the heck was being approved for a PPP loan. There were lots of commonalities, lots of questions, and LOTS of uncertainty.
Therefore, in true data geek fashion, we began to get increasingly curious about many of these trends across all local businesses and decided that something needed to be done. So, we reached out to local foundations, associations, chambers and economic development organizations that EntryPoint has long-standing relationships with to see if they would be interested in working with us – for free – to measure the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses and whether having that data would help them implement more effective programs to support this community during and long after the pandemic. The answer was a resounding YES.
With the uniting of Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Ann Arbor DDA, Ann Arbor SPARK, Ann Arbor Sports Commission, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber, Bank of Ann Arbor, Bodman, Cahoots, Change Works Consulting, Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Ann Arbor, City of Chelsea DDA, City of Dexter, City of Milan, City of Saline, Destination Ann Arbor, Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce, getDowntown Program, Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce, Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce, Menlo Innovations, Michigan Venture Capital Association, Milan Area Chamber, NewFoundry, Revalue, Saline Area Chamber of Commerce, Saline Main Street, SCORE Ann Arbor, TechBrewery, Village of Manchester, Washtenaw Community College, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, and Ypsilanti DDA – the “Washtenaw County Community Task Force” was formed! Or, at least, that’s what I’m calling it.
And so, with our newly formed Washtenaw County Community Task Force, we developed a five minute COVID-19 Business Impact Survey that we are encouraging ALL businesses in Washtenaw County to take – preferably before May 15, 2020. This is for tech companies, retail, accountants, daycares, restaurants, large companies, small companies, and everyone else – ALL businesses in Washtenaw County.
The results from the survey will be released by EntryPoint to the public the week of May 18. COVID-19 has significantly impacted local businesses in Washtenaw County and the economic stability of the region. As a local small business, we wanted to provide a free resource to the community that will help inform business leaders about the health of our local economy. The information gathered will help local economic development organizations and community leaders better advocate for the business community and develop programs to help us move forward and come out stronger together.
A few other items you might be interested in: COVID-19 relief resource page or research on the region