Before the coronavirus, the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the University of Arkansas operated as a “one-stop shop for startups and existing for-profit businesses,” as the center provided consultation and workshops for the establishment and growth of small businesses, offering service in eight Arkansas counties. However, after the global pandemic that ravaged the economy, the center launched the Small Business Emergency Assistance program and started to offer help in another way.
“Small businesses are the bread and butter of America,” Mary Beth Brooks, director of the University of Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center told Arkansas Money & Politics. “Over half of our population works for a small business. This comes out of the hope coronavirus doesn’t permanently change the landscape of America’s small businesses.”
Created in just eight days, the Small Business Emergency Assistance program launched on March 31. Since then, they have garnered 551 active clients, 223 of which signed up since the launch. One of the biggest components to the program is their help in securing small businesses Paycheck Protection Program loans, successfully ensuring more than $9.9 million in loans so far.
In addition, the Small Business Emergency Assistance program has created groups of like-minded business owners, allowing them to have a place for questions and advice amongst businesses in their markets. They have also conducted research to provide a better understanding of how a small business might pursue reopening in the state.
“The Walton College and McMillon Innovation Studio did a great consumer sentiment survey, which now has 2,000 survey results and 100 personal phone calls in the past month,” Brooks said. “A marketing professor analyzed all of it and came up with a game plan for restaurant owners. It gives them a lot of insight on what people are feeling about reopening in our region.”
The Small Business Emergency Assistance program also offers financial reviews, one-on-one counseling, business planning and other services – all of which are free. The program, which was funded by a grant provided by the Walton Family Foundation, is part of the partnership between the University of Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center and the Northwest Arkansas Council.