“Oh, you will actually hand out the guides in person? Fantastic! That has never happened here before.” That was how Tom Stewart, owner of Truckee Meadows Herbs and President of the Wells Avenue Merchants Association, responded when I told him about the outreach for the COVID-19 Small Business Resource Guide.
Thanks to earlier input from the Community Foundation Corporate Philanthropy Partners, (CPP) we created the “COVID-19 Small Business Resource Guide” to help small locally-owned businesses find resources and navigate the complexities of the CARES Act and the pandemic. The CPP was particularly interested in helping small businesses that were in low-income communities that play a vital role but may not have the same access to resources and information. The Northern Nevada International Center translated the resource guide to Spanish through their Language Bank services and even donated a portion of the cost to the Community Foundation.
We knew we could not just create the resource guide and expect people to find it. We had to do outreach and help answer questions. With more than 200 small locally-owned independent businesses, the Wells Avenue Merchants Association was the perfect place for outreach.
Before Luiza and I started walking Wells Avenue, Tom Stewart told us, “You will be amazed at the variety of unique businesses in our little community.” Tom’s words rang true. Whether we went to a café, computer repair shop, engraving shop, tattoo parlor, or pet store, we were greeted with warmth and appreciation for the resource guide.
Admittedly, we had a few comical encounters. Perhaps it was the tie I was wearing. Some people were concerned we were the health department or OSHA conducting a random COVID-19 compliance investigation. Others thought we were going to ask for a donation when they heard the Community Foundation was a nonprofit organization.
Our only goal was to help small businesses find resources. Out of all the shops we visited, only one person declined a copy of the guide. They felt they were familiar enough with the CARES Act and since they were doing fine, they thought the copy of the resource guide should be saved for someone else.
Despite the kindness Luiza and I were greeted with, conversations with local business owners reflected the challenges we have all heard on the news. Maria De Rojas, the owner of La Familia Beauty Salon, shared that she was doing everything to keep customers safe, but she has only a fraction of the appointments she had before the pandemic. Some of the artists from Absolute Tattoo spoke of the challenges of being closed for months, but their whole team is persistent and doing all they can to produce good art and stay independent.
Small businesses face incredible challenges. While we do not know what will happen next, our community will be stronger because of the Corporate Philanthropy Partners. The Corporate Philanthropy Partners care deeply about our community and bring impactful ideas, like the COVID-19 Small Business Resource Guide. We are grateful for their support.