Small businesses in South Florida aren't strangers to disaster, and many have successfully recovered from hurricanes – but the pandemic is uncharted territory.
For many owners in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, attention has shifted from survival to operations strategy and human resources. As doors reopen, they are focused on wisely and efficiently spending the disaster capital they received to navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
The Florida SBDC at FIU Business (FSBDC at FIU) is working hand in hand with local businesses to help them adjust to a new landscape. Today, consultants are seeing increased demand for guidance on financial management and retaining or recruiting employees as well as marketing, e-commerce, website development and social media activation.
"It's a good sign, as the phased re-openings have started, that business owners are trying to be smart about long-term strategy," said Brian Van Hook, regional director of the FSBDC at FIU. "Human resources and operations are key areas for COVID-19 recovery and for growing the business."
As of October 14, FSBDC at FIU Business had helped 293 small businesses in MiamiDade and Monroe counties secure $40.2 million in COVID-19 assistance:
"I've been impressed by the resilience of these business owners and their teams trying to find every tool not just to keep the business open but also to grow during the pandemic," said Van Hook.
Guided by FSBDC at FIU consultants, dentist Nolyris Alvarez's Oral Facial Comprehensive Care was approved for PPP loan assistance and a Florida Emergency Bridge Loan. Now they're working on a new business strategy, focused on cost-saving and financial stability.
Other small business owners have sought help to pivot their operations. Some restaurants have expanded into kitchen operations at local bars, increasing their local delivery footprint opportunities. One company shifted from making specialty window films to producing face shields that protect against COVID-19.
While many are on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, they describe the future in one word: uncertain.
"Everyone is cautiously optimistic, whether they are clients we have worked with for years or new clients we just started assisting due to COVID-19," said Van Hook, adding that the FSBDC at FIU has seen 1,500 clients since March 1. "We are not through it yet, but due to their hard work and perseverance, each day there is more progress and successes for these local businesses."