SOUTHEASTERN N.C. (WECT) - One in four small businesses have temporarily shutdown in response to COVID-19, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Cape Fear region is no different.
According to the report, 43% of small business owners believe they have less than six months until a permanent shutdown is unavoidable.
Small Business Centers at Cape Fear Community College and Brunswick Community College are working tirelessly to help local business owners figure out how to stay afloat and what to do next.
“A lot of it is unknown," said Jerry Coleman, the Director of CFCC’s Small Business Center. “A lot of what we do is being someone who can listen and be that shoulder to lean on to.”
Small Business Centers have had to shift focus in the last month.
“During normal times, we’re here to help businesses to plan, start and grow, but now we’re focused on helping businesses to survive," Coleman explained.
April Scott is the Director of Brunswick Community College’s Small Business Center. She says that in the last month, she’s seen a huge spike in calls and emails from local businesses seeking help.
“Now is a perfect time, while we can’t go anywhere, to pull your business plan out and see how you can run your business differently now, when the world is back to normal -- if that’s such a thing, if there is a normal -- and how you might run differently," said Scott.
Small Business Centers are offering free online webinars and free one-on-one confidential business counseling.
“We’re currently trying to help businesses get access to capital, find resources to help him to try to be sustainable during this time, helping them navigate the CARES Act and the funding options that are available to them which is difficult," Coleman said.
Steve Lambros owns Diamond Food Enterprises. It’s a catering business that’s been in Wilmington for decades. Lambros is taking advantage of the Small Business Center services to keep his business afloat.
“They keep you informed and you can stay current with the things going on," said Lambros. "I think that a lot of my friends in the small business world should use that source. There might be different things that are applicable to different businesses and they would let them know.”
Lambros says Coleman has been talking him through the Paycheck Protection Program and advising him on what to do to keep his business going.
“It’s been really helpful because it’s a blessing to be able to keep staff working so that they don’t have to work and they can continue you about their lives," said Lambros.
Coleman is advising clients to keep looking forward.
“Now is a good time to be thinking creatively about your business,” said Coleman. “What are we going to need to be doing to hit the ground warning once the stay at home orders do you live? So rather than just sit back and waiting, let’s be proactive and try to look for ways to be creative and innovative because moving forward the way we operate business is moving forward it’s probably going to be different than it was before.”
“Things might not be normal after this so I would encourage any business owner, before you call it quits or say that ‘I’m just not going to survive,’ reach out for guidance," said Scott. "Let a small business center advisor guide you through the process. Let us connect you to another resource. That’s why we’re here.”