With COVID-19 impacting small businesses in the state, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) has stepped forward to guide small business owners in Arkansas who need assistance during the pandemic.
ASBTDC is a university-based economic development program funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and six other universities to assist the state’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. The lead center is based at UA Little Rock.
Q. What are the biggest obstacles facing small businesses at this time?
Small businesses are facing a number of challenges and obstacles, from loss of revenue to layoffs. The coronavirus crisis created an immediate cash flow crunch for many businesses.
Now, business owners are sorting through the large volume of information about employment rules and funding programs to determine the best path forward. They are concerned about protecting their livelihoods and safeguarding the health and well-being of their customers and employees.
Q. What should businesses be doing to make it through the pandemic?
Our general recommendations to businesses to survive the pandemic include:
Adapt your business model as best you can to meet the current needs of customers, such as adding delivery or curbside services.
Apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from SBA, the Paycheck Protection Program or other funding programs. ASBTDC can help you with your applications.
Stay calm and focus on the fundamentals.
Q.What kind of services can the ASBTDC provide to help businesses cope with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our statewide network serves businesses from any county in Arkansas, in any industry sector, at any stage of development. Our no-cost, confidential, one-on-one consulting continues, but by phone, email, and videoconference to maintain social distancing.
Consulting services include cutting-edge market research and are available to current as well as prospective Arkansas small business owners. Our consultants are helping businesses rapidly assess and re-tool operations and apply for special COVID-19 funding. To request consulting, go to asbtdc.ecenterdirect.com/signup or call 800-862-2040.
ASBTDC is offering a series of no-cost webinars to help business owners respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Schedule and registration are available at asbtdc.org/asbtdc-events.
Businesses are worried about their survival and hungry for timely help and information. We encourage small businesses to participate in our webinars, review the COVID-19 Resources page (asbtdc.org/covid-19-resources) on our website, and reach out to us for assistance.
Q. Since the pandemic began, what are the most common questions that business owners have for the ASBTDC?
Most of the questions we are getting are about money or employees. Small businesses feeling the cash crunch want to know how to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the new Paycheck Protection Program or conserve their cash. Larger businesses are also asking about ways to avoid layoffs and the best way to take care of employees.
Q. Are there any other resources you would recommend to business owners?
Funding opportunities are popping up to support businesses affected by COVID-19. April 1, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas announced the launch of a new grant fund to support women-owned small businesses in the state. Also on April 1, Delta Dental of Arkansas announced $6.5 million in emergency financial assistance for its in-network dental providers.
While many legitimate resource providers are working to assist small businesses, we want to caution businesses about scams. Scammers are using the SBA or IRS name to con businesses during the COVID-19 crisis or asking for payment for services that are actually free. Beware of unsolicited phone calls, emails, text messages, and letters. Do not release any private information or banking information in response to an unsolicited communication.
Q. What can regular citizens do to help support local businesses during the pandemic?
Do everything you can to stop the spread of the virus and keep people healthy.
Continue to shop local whenever possible. Visit the Facebook pages or websites for your local small businesses. Many small businesses have online purchasing options.
If you have concerns about shopping at a local business during the pandemic, call the business to explain your issue with shopping in person and ask if they offer a way to help. For example, “I want to purchase from you, but I don’t want to get out of my car for social distancing reasons, so do you offer a way I can buy from you where I don’t have to get out of my car?”
Follow local businesses on social media, share their posts, and encourage your friends to patronize the small businesses you love.