COVID-19 and the resulting "social distancing" was especially impactful for the micro-business owner as they tend to be service related companies (barbers, landscapers, dry cleaners, etc.) and their target audiences are largely the middle and lower middle class workers. As the country was put in the "Stay At Home" mode, more and more none essential businesses were closed and displaced workers had to make tough decisions to maintain their standards of living. Government assistance programs have been a great help in stabilizing the lives of business owners with payroll obligations, but very little has been done for companies that have less than five employees. While we understand the logic behind focusing on the larger employers, our service area has many micro-business owners who not only have to figure how to maintain their standard of living, but determine if their business will survive the recovery period.
PROJECT "I CAN'T QUIT"
With the devastation of COVID-19 on small business owners, our Board of Directors has decided to seek a wider partnership with individuals and corporations in the effort to raise $100,000 over the next year,to be given (in the form of grants and microloans) to micro-business owners from 2022-2023. The concept of Project "I Can't Quit" is to raise awareness of those micro-business owners who need financial help moving their company to the next level or displaced workers who realize starting their own business is the only way to achieve their financial goals.
More than an opportunity to be awarded a grant up to $5,000, Project I Can't Quit (ICQ) members will receive an opportunity to learn key concepts in starting, growing, and sustaining a successful business through our Build A Better Business Academy and in partnership with GOCDC's mentoring program.
Here's how it works. The entrepreneur completes an application for the grant. If the application is accepted, it will be reviewed by the GOCDC Board Members . Applications will be given a score from 1 to 5 in the areas on business concept, strategic planning, financial projections, and growth potential. Five finalists will be chosen to present their business idea or growth concept to a panel of judges consisting of our Sponsors, Business Professionals, and other Community Leaders with the winner receiving up to $5,000.
Entrepreneur and business owners who do not make the application finals will have an opportunity to attend the Build A Better Business Academy (when face-to-face classes resume) and after successfully completing all of the classes will have an opportunity to give a full presentation in front of the judges panel and win up to $5,000.
Small businesses are a major force in the U.S. economy. There are more than thirty million small businesses in the United States and of that number 89% have fewer than 20 employees. Small businesses generate about 50% of our gross domestic product ($8 trillion dollars). Business ownership allows individuals, including women and minorities, to achieve financial success, as well as pride in their accomplishments. While the majority of small businesses are still owned by white males, the past two decades have seen a substantial increase in the number of businesses owned by women and minorities.
In 2018, we established the Build A Better Business series, which has helped more than 40 entrepreneurs learn key factors in creating and sustaining a successful business. Through our partnerships and donors, we have given more than $40,000 in grants to micro-business owners (fewer than 5 employees) and continue to support them with coaching, networking, and strategic planning.