Small businesses are more than just the lifeblood of our local economies. They make our main streets unique, they keep our communities vibrant, and they produce necessities for our neighborhoods. They provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and jobs for friends and family members. They also foster a sense of connection by creating relationships throughout the community.
I happen to be the husband of a small business owner who’s experienced and felt the effects of COVID-19. As a child psychologist, her main source of referrals came from schools. And when schools shut down in response to the pandemic, her referrals were greatly impacted at a time when many students needed these services more than ever.
This has happened across industries and professions–from psychologists to restaurant owners to retail shop owners–and individuals have had to take extraordinary measures to continue to serve their customers and communities. In the years that I’ve been fortunate to work with small business owners, I’ve always been impressed with their resilience, agility and optimism. In talking to our small business customers, we’re hearing that many are optimistic about the future of their business, but know that it will take time to rebuild as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.
That’s why I’m committed to championing small businesses through initiatives like Small Unites. Launched in 2020 by Capital One and a coalition of brands, Small Unites is a national advocacy program providing ongoing support for small businesses by inspiring consumers to “choose small” and offering business owners educational resources to help them thrive in the future.
Adapting for long-and short-term challenges and opportunities
As they continue to navigate the current landscape and plan ahead, it’s been critical for business owners to find ways to balance the service that consumers know and love with the ability to keep employees and customers safe.
For the past few months, I’ve made a weekly visit to Nate’s Bagels in the Fan District. Not only are the bagels delicious, but they’ve also taken measures to improve customer safety and adhere to social distancing protocols. Like many businesses in the restaurant and retail industries, they’ve achieved this by setting up a new online ordering and curbside pickup system that limits contact.
Beyond changes to their goods and services, the small business community in Richmond has stepped up to the challenges of the past year by supporting one another.
Business owners, local organizations and business associations have established and grown their networks and ties to the community. Through partnerships, they’re providing unique services and experiences for customers. For example, we’ve seen retailers partnering with restaurants, and technology companies partnering with local schools and educational organizations.
It’s likely that some of these measures are here to stay for the long term, like expanded e-commerce and contactless payment options. Businesses may also decide to continue trends like curbside pickup as an added safety and convenience measure for customers. I also believe the sense of community will outlast the changes and challenges brought about by the pandemic, and I hope to see Richmonders’ enthusiasm for supporting small businesses outlast the COVID-19 era. It will continue to strengthen Richmond businesses and our economy in years to come.
Joining the movement to make a difference for small businesses
As we acclimate to the changes from the past year and look ahead, it’s important to pause and appreciate the people and organizations who have responded in inspiring ways to keep our community vibrant.
Organizations like the Metropolitan Business League Foundation have provided support for small businesses and entrepreneurs in Richmond. Through grants and technical assistance programs, they're reaching businesses in need of financial relief as well as supporting those seeking ways to increase clients and revenue. The MBLF's We Care RVA Small Business Relief Fund for Richmond-based businesses has provided 115 grants worth more than $400,000 across the retail, health and wellness, professional services and restaurant industries. The businesses who have received these grants have made pivots large and small to better position themselves for continued impacts from the pandemic as well as for their new normal.
And through the Small Unites initiative, everyone has an opportunity to give back and support small businesses. The program is designed so that you can make an impact in many ways, whether that’s by choosing small, making a donation, or becoming an advocate for your favorite independent restaurant, retail store—even your accountant or realtor.
On a personal note, I’m looking forward to seeing Richmond continue to thrive so that we can engage with all the city has to offer, from movies to bowling to the vibrant food and dining scene. Until then, let’s all do our part to make an impact and support the businesses that have become the embodiment of our communities.
As a founding partner of Small Unites, Capital One is committed to supporting small business owners. Small Unites is a national movement and advocacy program designed to rally consumers and communities across the country to champion small businesses.