Small businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic’s COVID-19 disease. The Senate has approved a second relief package, this one worth $484 billion. The bill is largely aimed at helping replenish a loan initiative for small businesses.
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So is this COVID-19 pandemic a good time to have a small business or decide to branch out on your own? I had the opportunity to pose some questions about the state of small businesses to APU Program Director, Entrepreneurship, Dr. Cassandra Shaw.
Dr. Harper: What are your thoughts about the government intervention and the proposal for small business loans to keep businesses afloat during this crisis?
Dr. Shaw: The small business stimulus package is a great step from the government in trying to help save small business and to help save jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the largest stimulus in our history with $2 trillion focused on small business alone. The stimulus is directed to help with payroll and other essential expenses, such as mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
This stimulus loan is different than a disaster loan. The government stimulus is a forgivable loan. This means that when a small business is approved for a loan, portions used for the essentials, such as payroll, are forgiven. In the end, the small business could have its loan forgiven in its entirety, provided it is used as intended.
Dr. Harper: What does the post-coronavirus period look like to you in terms of entrepreneurship and small businesses?
Dr. Shaw: Not all business has declined during this COVID-19 pandemic. Some businesses are in need right now, such as healthcare and those contributing to the essential workers.
When you think about it, there’s a supply chain of essentials. For instance, in healthcare, they need masks and respirators. The hospitals don’t manufacture those but instead purchase them from other businesses. Those businesses need the materials to make masks, and those materials come from other businesses.
Post-coronavirus, even during the virus, can be a gateway for entrepreneurship. It’s brought to light certain needs, such as biopharmaceuticals, which will spark research and inventions.
Also, online entrepreneurship is growing during the COVID-19 pandemic because people are staying at home; most are not able to go in to work. Many, many people have lost their jobs and while they are at home, [they] begin to think of a better way to make a living. Online businesses will continue to grow.
Dr. Harper: What are your recommendations for someone who was employed but wants to transition to entrepreneur as a result of this COVID-19 crisis?
Dr. Shaw: First, anyone wanting to transition to becoming an entrepreneur must have knowledge in the foundations of business and entrepreneurship principles. The best way to do this is through education. Seek a certification in entrepreneurship or a degree. Ensure the education is focused on entrepreneurship and not only business.
Business is one entity of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur must be knowledgeable in all areas.
Second, network with others who either have transitioned or want to. This provides an accountability group. You can have weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly calls to check in with each other, help problem solve, and keep moving forward.
Dr. Harper: Is it a good time to start a business?
Dr. Shaw: Entrepreneurs will say it’s almost always a good time to start a business. There is a proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This holds true for entrepreneurship as well.
Don’t put yourself in a dire financial situation. Be smart about it, use your education and go for it.
Dr. Harper: What emerging industries do you see opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurship?
Dr. Shaw: We are seeing opportunities in industries such as mobile food businesses (think food trucks and pop-up restaurants), online learning and educational software; all things babies, kids, and pets stay strong, clean water services, gender-neutral personal care, healthier snack foods, space technology, and sustainable consumer goods. Most opportunities follow the trends of sociocultural changes.
For instance, we’ve had the trend for a while now of eating healthier and cleaner foods. From this change in eating habits has come a wave of healthier snack foods.
Dr. Harper: What courses in your program would be good first steps for someone interested in making the transition?
Dr. Shaw: The bachelor’s in entrepreneurship program begins with an idea generation course, which takes students from idea to feasibility to a plan for next steps. This is a must in beginning to be an entrepreneur: You must know if your idea solves a problem people want solved and the idea is feasible. The master’s program begins with ideation and takes the student through the same process.
Next, all courses in the bachelor’s and master’s programs are directly aligned to the student’s venture. For instance, in the legal course, the student decides which legal entity is best for them, studies different laws they must adhere to based on their venture (i.e. local ordinances for alcohol), and looks at taxes. The financial courses go through money management and seeking funding.
People are fearful right now because there is so much uncertainty regarding what is going to happen next. In spite of what appears to be a bleak, short-term future, I would steady the course. Stand firm and believe in your dream!
Dr. Harper: In my opinion, branching out may be good for some individuals, especially if one has been hit hard financially. I have friends who are attempting to diversify their options and venturing out into the unknown. There are individuals who may disagree with that type of adventure; however, some us believe it makes sense to take a risk when you have lost.
About the Authors
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Dean of the School of Business at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist, and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience.
Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments. She is an innovative thinker and influential leader, manifesting people skills, a systematic approach to problems, organizational vision, and the ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service, and the development of future leaders.
Dr. Cassandra (Sandy) Shaw is the Program Director for Entrepreneurship at APU. As a solopreneur, intrapreneur and instructor, she enjoys seeing others succeed. Her passion comes from helping others to see and reach their greatest potential. Follow Sandy on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/shawcassandra/ and Twitter: @ResearchShaw.
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