COVID-19 has particularly devastated minority-owned businesses. Forty-one percent of Black-owned businesses were erased within a three-month period, along with 32 percent of Latinx-owned businesses and 26 percent of Asian-owned businesses, compared to 17 percent of White-owned businesses. In addition, 36 percent of businesses owned by immigrants closed in the same period, compared to 18 percent of businesses owned by people born in the U.S.
The pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, and businesses must re-imagine the way they work. From developing COVID-19 safety policies to rapidly moving sales online, small businesses are facing an unprecedented set of overwhelming and urgent demands.
But small businesses don’t have to face these challenges alone. Main Street Relief is a nonprofit volunteer network helping small businesses respond to and recover from economic crises like COVID-19. We match small businesses with volunteers who can provide assistance on topics including financial management, sales & marketing, technology, and operations through free, one-on-one support sessions. We’re serving small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country.
“This crisis has really laid bare how lonely the road of small business can be, and Main Street Relief is what we all need during this time,” said Pennsylvania restaurant owner Alex Knechtl. “The most amazing part of MSR was to connect with someone willing to listen. I am trying to guide my parents through a complete collapse of the only business model they know and frankly, I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s a bit like throwing spaghetti at the walls. Connecting with someone who was willing to listen to ideas and offer suggestions was a great comfort.”
With more than 100 volunteers available for one-on-one support, Main Street Relief matches small businesses with a volunteer who can best match their needs.
“When I came across Main Street Relief on LinkedIn, I saw that it would be a great way to volunteer virtually and put some of my professional skills to use in helping small businesses,” said Main Street Relief volunteer Robert Atterberry. “With the resources provided by Main Street Relief and my personal experience, the business owner was able to feel reassured and know that they were starting off on the right track.”
Main Street relief launched on April 30 and to date, has served 25 businesses across 15 states.
“It’s personal for me,” said Michael Hole, co-founder of Main Street Relief. “My parents’ business is more than a golf course and restaurant. It’s the community that raised me — neighbors who taught me about integrity, hard work and service to others, especially when the going gets tough.”
When the CARES Act passed, Hole helped his parents near Darlington, Indiana, navigate their options for emergency financial help and noticed how complex the process soon became. While his family eventually applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Hole realized how hard things were for the businesses with even fewer resources and time.
Tej Mehta, a New York-based social impact strategy consultant, was organizing resources to help immigrant-owned small businesses survive COVID-19. Tej, who is a first-generation American, quickly recognized the challenges ahead for this population.
“Something had to be done,” said Tej Mehta, a co-founder of Main Street Relief. “Small businesses in this country have limited support infrastructure. They are simply individuals or families who have been here for generations just trying to make it. After seeing the complexity of these financial relief programs, I could not begin to imagine what they would do.”
A mutual friend connected Tej and Michael in early April of 2020, and now, alongside a dedicated and growing team, they’re recruiting and matching volunteers with America’s small businesses in need. The team also includes Mitchell Breitbart (product and engineering), Nika Duan (partnerships), Victoria Fryer (content marketing), Janine-Marie Rafio (public partnerships and business outreach), Johnathan Silver (marketing), Jessica Silverstein (marketing and partnerships), Elana Sari Solomon (graphic design), Barrie Tovar (brand and creative), and Victoria Yu (communications and public relations).
Since launching, our product and resources have been nimble and responsive to rapidly evolving needs of small businesses.
“In Main Street Relief’s early days, we focused a lot on attracting and empowering small business owners to participate in all of the financial resources and options available to them,” said Victoria Yu, director of communications at Main Street Relief. “Since then, we’ve been responsive to changing small business needs. We continue to provide assistance in financial management like loan navigation and rent deferrals, but also made sure we were ahead of the pack in recognizing that businesses have to re-imagine sustainability through sales and marketing, technology, and operations.”
Feedback from our small businesses and volunteers drives this responsiveness and allows MSR to ensure we are keeping up with evolving small business needs. We’re all invested in this effort because small businesses fuel local economies, build communities, and create jobs. They give character and meaning to the places we live, work, and play.
We’re building partnerships with those who hold the same values. From national partners like Finli, a technology platform that provides integrated financial solutions for schools and studios, to Long Branch Free Public Library in New Jersey, we’re working together to strengthen capacity to provide small business assistance.
Our partners include:
- Finli, a technology platform that provides integrated financial solutions for neighborhood schools and studios
- RetailWire, a news outlet providing industry news and analysis
- Long Branch Free Public Library in New Jersey as part of their small business assistance program
- Michigan Community Resources, a nonprofit that provides a comprehensive array of services for navigating through legal and community organizing issues
- The Merchants Fund, a Philadelphia charity established in 1854 to provide charitable gifts to business persons facing financial hardship
- CommonWealth Kitchen, a Boston-based food incubator and small batch manufacturing center
“We are rapidly growing small business engagement and outreach through partnerships with libraries, local chambers of commerce, nonprofits, and corporations,” said Nika Duan, director of strategic partnerships at Main Street Relief. “Main Street Relief works side-by-side with partners to offer more resources and more expertise for small business owners when they need it most.”
And that’s not all we’re doing to engage small business owners and volunteers who are connected to our mission. We’re building a nationwide community of resources, expertise and support through ongoing communication and engagement.
“We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, where we share the latest recovery news and available resources,” said Johnathan Silver, director of marketing at Main Street Relief. “We also share similar news and technical updates via a newsletter for volunteers and plan to launch one for small businesses. We’re leaving no stone unturned because we want to connect with small businesses, volunteers, and partners where they already are.”
Although COVID-19 brought this team together, we plan to be here long afterwards because small businesses will always need support that is clear, accessible, and human. MSR occupies a critical space, and we are here to stay. MSR commits to being a champion for small businesses because they are champions of their communities.
Are you a small business owner thinking about closing your doors for good? Reach out to us first. Want to know how you can help small businesses weather COVID-19? Sign up to volunteer with Main Street Relief. The process is simple, but it goes a long way.
PARTNER WITH US
We’re in this together. Main Street Relief builds partnerships across the public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors to strengthen efforts around supporting small businesses. Through partnerships, we raise visibility and build capacity to reach more small businesses and volunteers. You can partner with us by referring Main Street Relief to your small businesses and network of volunteers, co-hosting an information session, and/or building media and content partnerships.
Main Street Relief is a nonprofit helping small businesses respond to and recover from economic crises like COVID-19. We match small businesses with skilled volunteers who can provide assistance on topics including financial management, sales & marketing, technology, and operations through free, one-on-one support sessions. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.