at 4:01 PM
It's Small Business Week! Generally celebrated in May and recognized by the Small Business Administration, this year's promotion was moved to September due to the pandemic. Regardless of timing, we are excited to celebrate our small businesses this week and every week. There is no question our businesses, particularly our small businesses, have experienced one of the toughest years imaginable.
The statistics are bleak. I've been on several calls this week with organizations that support small business across the country, and the outlook is concerning, at best. Several of them noted that approximately 30% of small business owners they support do not have the cash flow or business to keep them open through the end of the year. These numbers are even more-so concerning if you're one of the individuals who have poured your heart and soul into owning and operating a small business.
Small business owners are entrepreneurial by nature - they take risks, they are independent, they drive growth and innovation. They are resilient, tenacious, creative and inventive. But they are tired, and they need us to rally around them. Just this week a few of our small businesses announced changes to their daily operations in an effort to help keep their businesses open for the long haul. Please do what you can to help support our small businesses this week during Small Business Week and every week thereafter.
To the small business owners in our community: We see you trying to make ends meet and hold it all together. We are in your corner to help you get through these challenges, and are hoping for better days ahead. We salute you!
p.s. If you'd like to support above and beyond your regular purchases, we are still accepting donations to the Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund which has helped provide support to more than 50 small businesses in Grinnell, and is continuing to make grant financial support as this pandemic continues.
at 2:36 PM
It's Constitution Day! On this day, in 1787 the Constitution of the United States was signed. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 articulates the need to count people on a regular and routine basis*. We are rapidly nearing the end of September which has been marked as 2020's last day to collect census data. If you have not yet done so, I strongly encourage you to take the next ten minutes to complete your 2020 Census by clicking here or by calling 844-330-2020.
As of yesterday's date, Grinnell's response rate was reported at 72.2% and Poweshiek County is at 65.3% completion. These numbers have a huge impact on our community for the next ten years. If we have a large miscount, we will likely be fighting an uphill battle for the next ten years when it comes to receiving funding for things like roads, bridges, healthcare and education, among others. Additionally, the census is important from a business recruitment and retention standpoint - people are looking at these numbers on a routine basis when making decisions about whether or not to move to a community, starting a business or relocating a business.
It is so important for our community to have a high response rate, and you have the power to make an impact. Please, please if you have not yet completed your 2020 Census, take time today on Constitution Day to be counted for Grinnell, for Poweshiek County and for Iowa.
*Verbiage from the Constitution: "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."
at 4:12 PM
There is no question 2020 has been a year for the books. So much has happened over the past several months, and the end isn't quite in site yet!
Last week, Governor Reynolds ordered immediate business closures in six counties in Iowa. These businesses were not given much time to prepare or create a plan for how they would navigate the next few weeks to keep their businesses viable. We've joked a bit that 'pivot' should be the keyword for 2020, but the truth is our small business owners have had to pivot nearly weekly for the past six months.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Iowa it seems somewhat likely that business closures may be extended and more may be on the way. Let me tell you something -- many of our small businesses may not be able to endure another round of closures. It has been a tough year and another mandatory shutdown may just be the writing on the wall for more of them to consider permanent closures. We do not want to see that happen in our community -- our small business owners are resilient and innovative, but there's only so much that is in their hands.
Today's newsletter is not intended to debate our differences of opinion as it relates to the pandemic; however, we know this one thing: masking up will allow our businesses to remain open and it will allow things to get back to 'normal' - whatever that may look like. Will you join us and many of our partners in wearing a mask to ensure our businesses are able to stay open? Grinnell small businesses are friends, family and neighbors to many - let's do our part to continue to support them.
This is the fundamental reason we support the #MaskUpGrinnell campaign - to ensure our businesses are able to stay open.
p.s. If you are in need of additional masks, or would like to purchase some #MaskUpGrinnell themed masks, visit maskupgrinnell.com and secure your order at a discounted price today. Hurry, prices increase this Saturday, September 5!
at 4:23 PM
Post-Derecho. I cannot say enough amazing things about this community. Rallying together to help neighbors and strangers, supporting businesses in unique ways and now, finding additional ways to give back.
Our office, along with our partners at Claude & Dolly Ahrens Foundation, Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and Grinnell United Way, have been contacted multiple times over the past week and a half inquiring about ways to support disaster efforts. We quickly determined that many organizations and funds already exist to support a multitude of efforts that are likely to surface post-derecho and, as a result, have opted to direct folks to these funds already in existence.
The initial funds identified include: Grinnell Food Coalition, Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund, Grinnell United Way, JPK Grinnell Area Mental Health Consortium, Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund, and the Poweshiek Housing Assistance Fund. Each of these funds or organizations are doing great work in the Grinnell community, and this is by no means an exhaustive list; however, we hope it will help reach the organizations and efforts that are most likely to be impacted post-derecho and/or have most flexibility within the organizations to get dollars to the highest need individuals and businesses.
We know many of you have family and friends outside of the Grinnell community who are not able to physically be here and contribute volunteer hours, but still want to support our community. We hope you will take a look at these funds, and ask your family and friends outside of Grinnell to consider supporting them.
p.s. To find more information about each of the aforementioned funds, and to read the press release in its entirety, please click here.
at 5:18 PM
We are always creating shop local campaigns as a way to drive traffic to our local shops and eateries. But this year, it's different. In no uncertain terms, our businesses need support now more than ever, and we are working like crazy to support them in whatever ways we can. But at the end of the day, we need that support to come from all of you reading this newsletter - as dedicated community members - to ensure our businesses make it through this incredibly rough patch.
Our business community has been incredibly transparent with our team and continues to report staggering decline in sales, with several down between 35-50%, consistently. Simply put, that is not sustainable for a very long period of time. And while restaurants and retailers were able to reopen in mid-May, many of them (especially restaurants) are still finding their footing in this new normal and trying to find ways to bring in revenue to simply stay afloat.
I've been amazed at our business owners' resiliency and tenacity - they're an incredible group. Many of them are innovating their business models (pick up a picnic from Solera!), introducing new products (BLT pizza from Pagliai's or gluten free wraps from Dari Barn), and working on new and creative ideas to safely serve customers amid the pandemic. Last week, City Council asked the Chamber of Commerce to pursue a collaborative effort that could address some of the challenges restaurants are facing, and we are excited to be researching streateries (aka street dining) as one potential concept. Would you take just a couple minutes to complete this brief survey to help us gauge the community's interest in outdoor dining concepts?
We know it's possible that some businesses may not weather this storm, but we hope that creative and innovative ideas and solutions, paired with a community willing to support its local establishments, will ensure many prevail.
Join me as we continue to #GRINNtogether to support local.
p.s. Thank you to all who have supported our efforts through the Chamber Champions program - we are so grateful! To learn more about the program or donate today, click here.
at 10:15 AM
130 Days. Wow, a lot has changed in that time, and so much may never be the same. Our office has been incredibly busy, albeit a very different kind of 'busy' than in a normal year. We have primarily worked remotely during this period and have implemented program after program to help support our business community, oftentimes doing so regardless of whether they are a member of our organization or not. Programs like the Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund (the first of its kind in the state), developing and launching GrinnellToGo.com, the Grinnell Gift Card program to support businesses by purchasing gift cards now to be used later, working with our small businesses to provide much-needed access to PPE and much more.
Unfortunately while we were busy creating and implementing all these programs, our revenue streams were being actively disrupted as we were no longer able to host many in-person events giving critical cash flow to our operations. Equally, several of our members have been unable to pay their invoices due to the economic climate. We have pursued many opportunities to help financially support our organization; however, Chambers of Commerce have been left out of the loop for many funding opportunities, which now leaves us implementing yet another new program.
We have recently launched Chamber Champions as a way for our community and individuals to support the financial stability of our organization. As of today, 100% of our Board Members and many community members have already pledged their support to become a Chamber Champion.
We are so grateful to be part of such an incredible community; one that rallies around causes and organizations and supports so many efforts, both in and out of a pandemic. I am very humbly appreciative of any financial support that may come our way via the Chamber Champions program as it will allow our team to continue to support our business and community efforts and outreach.
To learn more or to become a Chamber Champion, please visit our website today.
at 8:40 AM
Just this morning I saw a post shared by Suzi's Boutique on social media that said 'Use 'em before you lose 'em. Support your local small business.' It was fitting as today's message was intended to launch our #GRINNlocalchallenge to encourage everyone to be local and support local.
As an affiliate member of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, we are excited to launch a similar challenge as is taking place in the metro this week. Starting this Sunday, June 28 we encourage you to take the #GRINNlocalchallenge. During the next seven days, make sure every dollar you spend is spent locally. Challenge yourself to seek out a local business for anything you might need and challenge yourself to go broader than your normal shopping lists.
After you make the pledge, share on social media and challenge 3 friends to complete the #GRINNlocalchallenge next week, too! Use the #GRINNlocalchallenge to share how you spent your money locally, including the places you went and the things you found! Post a picture of your purchases and share with everyone to see how you are helping to support our small businesses!
Our small business owners are rockstars every day, month and year but especially in the past 100+ days as they have, and continue to, navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic. Many of them continue to feel the effects caused by mandatory business closures and adjustments, and they need our support as much today as they did in early April. Please consider taking the #GRINNlocalchallenge next week to support our neighbors and friends while giving our local economy a bit of a boost!
at 3:49 PM
It felt to me as though the days in March & April drug on forever, and yet here we are and it's May 21. For me it's hard to believe how quickly May has gone. All the while, our team is on week 10 of this work-from-home/school-from-home gig and are now starting to slowly think about the transition back to the office. There are many considerations as we do so; many of the same considerations that our businesses have been facing for the last several weeks, and some of them are still weighing the best option for them, their team and their business.
Some of them have reopened, some of them are yet to reopen, some of them will encourage or mandate new policies such as mask wearing for employees and customers and some won't. As we continue to experience new highs and lows of this pandemic, I want to urge each of us to remember to be kind and give grace.
While everyone is in the midst of the pandemic, we are all coping with it in different ways. The stress and stressors are different for each and every one of us, and they are very real. Restaurants and retailers are as stressed about how they accommodate a new normal as many of you are about going to these establishments. Some people want to wear facemasks while others don't. It's okay to not agree wholeheartedly about the 'right' way to reopen but please try to remember to give grace during this time. Give grace to the essential healthcare workers, to the cashier at the grocery store, to the facilities teams, to your children, to the restaurant worker who started their first shift back to a very new experience, to yourself, and everyone in between.
Be patient, be positive and be kind.
at 11:36 AM
For years, we have recognized the first week of May as National Small Business Week, National Nurses Day and Teacher Appreciation Week. It's fair to say that 'thank you' to each of these groups of individuals takes on new meaning. Does it seem ironic that each of these have been magnified as a result of the pandemic?!
As a parent of young children, who has been working from home for 7+ weeks while simultaneously homeschooling, I can say without a doubt that while I've always appreciated teachers for the incredible work they do to educate our future, that appreciation is taken to a whole new level this year. To all the teachers in and around Grinnell, and across the state and country, THANK YOU for all you do on a 'normal' day let alone these times of 'new normal'.
Nurses...where do I start? Putting yourselves on the frontlines of this pandemic every single day to keep our friends, families and neighbors as safe as possible. THANK YOU! I believe we have some pretty amazing nurses at each of our healthcare institutions which has only been exemplified over the last several weeks. We appreciate all you do, day in and day out, pandemic or not, and are incredibly grateful for your tenacity and courage to keep going every day.
And finally, our small businesses. While Small Business Week has technically been postponed and will be celebrated at a later time this year, we're recognizing you anyway! You all have endured so much change and volatility over the last several weeks, and you continue to persevere - THANK YOU! We cannot wait until the day you are all fully open again, and while we know that may look different (masks, counter shields, more hand sanitizer, etc) know that we are anxiously awaiting being able to support all of our small businesses in person again! Small businesses have historically employed the majority of Americans, and while we know many layoffs have had to happen at small businesses as a result of the pandemic, we also believe our small businesses will continue to respond in resilient ways and will grow as a result of these challenges. Small businesses are the heart of a community, and we are happy to support them in a multitude of ways.
Join me this week as we say THANK YOU to all our teachers, nurses and small business owners. You're all amazing!
p.s. As businesses consider reopening strategies, we want to help connect you to PPE! If you represent a business, would you take two minutes to complete this survey?
at 4:26 PM
Already a month has passed since we launched the Grinnell Small Business Relief Fund with the help and support from our colleagues at Grinnell Mutual and Grinnell College. Since that time, the fund has continued to grow from financial support from many of you and we are excited to share that the first round of funding has already been distributed. Almost forty small businesses were assisted through this fund in some capacity and while we know it will not make them whole (nothing will), we are hopeful it will help them be able to keep the doors open post-pandemic.
“The GSBR was the first funding made available to us. We applied for it immediately and received a grant that went towards our utility bill,” said Alicia Blankenfeld, co-owner of Total Choice Shipping and Printing in downtown Grinnell. They then found a business opportunity to help support the fund that helped them. If you haven't already, you can purchase a yard sign or decal to show your community spirit and resiliency while also supporting the Small Business Relief Fund to help businesses just like Total Choice and so many others in our community; 40% of each purchase will be donated directly back to the fund.
If you find yourself in a position to help support our small businesses via this fund, monetary donations can be made here. And if you'd like to show your Grinnell pride at the same time, you can purchase some of the swag to also help support our small businesses!
We appreciate you doing all you can to help support our local businesses and organizations during these uncertain times. It truly takes a village, and we have one of the best in Grinnell!
p.s. Our hearts go out to St. Francis Manor, their residents and staff this week with news of a COVID outbreak. We know our community is already rallying around them in incredible ways, and we want you all to know you have our continued support in these challenging times!