When local small businesses and entrepreneurs needed help navigating the pandemic, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of UW-Green Bay answered the call—literally—serving remotely, 591 distinct businesses with disaster consultation since March 15… the most of any state center (Madison was second with 163 businesses served).
Wisconsin SBDCs have been the “go to” for the EIDL and PPP opportunities for small businesses. During the start of the pandemic, UW-Green Bay transferred three people from the Continuing Education and Community Engagement Staff to temporarily the SBDC staff to help manage the overwhelming workload.
“Our center has provided triage counseling to more businesses in three weeks, than we typically do in a year,” said director Tara Carr. “I am so very thankful for the support and commitment the University has taken to assist the SBDC in the recovery efforts with small businesses in our 12-county region. Once the administration was aware of the overwhelming workload the SBDC was experiencing, with no hesitation and within hours, additional temporary staff were assigned to the department. As I reflect on the timeline, these changes were made on a Saturday and the temporary staff began that Monday! Words cannot describe my gratitude and sense of pride to be a part of the UW-Green Bay family.”
The need is great.
“The majority of small business owners have been extremely concerned and scared of losing their business,” Carr said. “Scared in the sense of having the fear of ambiguity regarding the future and how long they will have to endure the economic slowdown. The other part of the concern is how long can the business financially endure the decreased or ceased revenue, while continuing to pay overhead expenses? To get funding for a startup, business owners collateralize their homes, retirement, savings, and/or use personal credit cards. As you can imagine, when the revenue comes to a halt for an extended time, the stress can be insurmountable.”
At the same time, the SBDC is getting calls from entrepreneurs who want to start a business or need advice.
“There are also many existing business that have been able to pivot their business model to accommodate the social distancing issues and changing consumer needs,” Carr said. “Entrepreneurs are amazingly creative people with tremendous problem-solving skills. They are able to identify a need and figure out how to take the resources they have and make it work for the consumer. It is truly impressive to watch!”
UW-Green Bay was proactive in its response to the COVID- 19 crisis. As a result, the Small Business Development Center at UW- Green Bay temporarily closed the center doors on March 11. The staff has been working at home since March 12 and continue to serve clients by phone, email, and virtual meetings.
“We were fortunate enough to have previously replaced all desktops with laptops and phone lines with cell phones,” Carr said of the quick transition. “The SBDC staff is mobile. Typically we meet with our clients face-to-face, and the social distancing can create some challenges for the non-technology clients, particularity in the rural areas. (Staff members) are highly skilled and their solution-oriented approach is the key to success.”
Over the past several weeks, triage outreach has been made by phone, email and social media, informing business owners and SBDC clients how to prepare for the economic crisis they are experiencing. Triage is the first line of contact provided to these businesses. For more advanced and customized consulting, appointments were made with the expert business consultants.
The current SBDC at UW-Green Bay team: Diane Welhouse, David Stauffacher, Ray York, Judy Price, Tammy Clausen, Melissa Schleicher and Tara Carr
Highlights of the SBDC community outreach:
- Clients consulted since January 1, 2020: 350 (goal for 2020 = 351)
- Non-clients consulted since March 15, 2020: 507
- Total small businesses served since January 1, 2020: 857
- Consulting hours for non-clients: 318.70
- Consulting hours for clients: 608.90
- Total consulting hours by SBDC since January 1, 2020: 927.60
- In addition to consulting, the entire team attends multiple weekly federal and state webinars and trainings for consulting clients.
- Disaster 2020 consulting: The Green Bay Center is #1 in the state by serving 591 distinct businesses since March 15th. (Madison is #2 at 163 businesses).