Small businesses, feeling financial pressure, need creative solutions to survive

Until the COVID-19 vaccine is in widespread use, a lot of small business owners say they will not survive the disruption without some help.

A recent poll by the small-business network Alignable finds 85% of small businesses saying they need financial relief to survive, and almost half are at risk of closure, right now. Staying open, requires some creativity.

"I don't think anyone expected us to be in this pandemic for nine months," says small business consultant Stephanie Caudle.

Her agency, the Black Girl Group, helps minority-entrepreneurs find the creative tools they need to succeed.

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In the best of times, survival is a challenge for small businesses, but restrictions prompted by the pandemic have changed all the rules.

"Now they're trying to figure out how can we make the most money in a short amount of time," says Caudle.

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She's talking about people like Houston bar owner Julie Mabry. We first met Mabry in September, as she worked to reopen her Pearl Bar, by reimagining how she could safely welcome customers back. 'They're the ones who helped get to where we are," said Mabry, at the time, "I'm excited for them to come in and enjoy it."

It's the kind of creativity that Stephanie Caudle says small businesses need to employ, to survive.

While there can be unique differences, the challenge of tapping into the needs of customers is the same: online sales, curbside service, focusing on different products, even sharing expertise to help customers in the short-term can be useful strategies.

"Make sure that you're catering to the audience that you're missing out on," says Caudle, "You want to make sure that you bring the same experience that they have in-store (so that) they can have it in their home, as well."

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For some entrepreneurs, there is concern that they're training customers 'not' to come back to stores.

While Caudle admits it's a calculated risk, but if a business doesn't find a way to be important to those customers, she says they won't survive to find what happens when the pandemic is over.