As the economic toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses hard, Opus College of Business has stepped up to assist entrepreneurs with a webinar series, "Business Support During Challenging Times."
The webinars, delivered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, have so far covered topics ranging from the U.S. Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to managing remote employees.
Hosted by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Family Business Center and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the free webinars feature faculty and industry experts discussing the topics affecting small business in uncertain times.
"This has truly been a team effort. Early on in this crisis, it became clear to us that the Schulze School could play an important role in helping our community of entrepreneurs, small businesses and family businesses navigate the tremendous challenges they are facing by pulling together our faculty, staff and local experts to help offer information and guidance ," said Laura Dunham, associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. "We see ourselves as a lifelong partner to our students, alumni and community partners, and we are blessed with tremendous resources in terms of the expertise we are able to access. So we all knew it was important to mobilize that as quickly as possible on behalf of our community."
The free webinars have been a popular resource so far, according to Family Business Center Director Jon Keimig, with an average audience of more than 100 local businesses on each webinar. "I receive follow-up emails from attendees after the webinar, thanking us for the information, letting us know how well they’re produced, and asking for recordings and other materials related to what they were just a part of," he said.
"The most important action for small business survival was to get cash assistance to the business as quickly as possible, which is why we put together a webinar on the EIDL program as soon as it became available," said Small Business Development Center Director Mike Ryan, who presented in that first webinar. "In the meantime, the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) legislation was pending and the state of Minnesota was announcing small business financial assistance programs."
"The government financial assistance programs are all well-intentioned, but the process is not always completely thought through when the programs are announced," he added. "The SBDC acts as a conduit between the various government agencies, who we are in touch with daily, and small businesses. We try to keep current on the latest rules being written, and then pass that information on to the businesses."
Future webinar topics will be selected by close monitoring of the business slowdown caused by COVID-19, as well as outreach to alumni and the business community.