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  • Writer's pictureSuzette Feller

COVID-19, Small Business, and Innovation

Many of us, myself included, are guilty of thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship almost solely in the context of major tech companies and places like Silicon Valley. While these are important hubs for some of the world’s brightest and most inventive minds, I’ve come to realize over the past several weeks that the greatest source of innovation and entrepreneurship is just down the street – in America’s small businesses.

Small business owners make excellent entrepreneurs, in part by necessity. They don’t have the same big funding that Fortune 500 companies do; at all times, and especially in times like these, they’re forced to get creative and thrifty in order to survive. This drive to survive, and beyond that, to succeed, creates our country’s sharpest and most resilient entrepreneurs.

I’ve been reminded of this fact many times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as I read story after story about small businesses coming up with new ways to serve their customers while social distancing, and helping out in their local communities. Their genuine drive to help others at a time when they’re experiencing so much hardship themselves is remarkable. For example, one Nashville restaurateur is offering hot meals on a pay-what-you-can basis to anyone in need, with a special invitation to those laid off in the hospitality industry. Alcohol distilleries, meanwhile, are shifting gears to make free hand sanitizer for hospitals and food banks – despite the fact that their business has declined rapidly as a result of mandated bar closures.

In a great example of local entrepreneurship, the ladies at Glam Salon in Hillsborough, NC created at-home hair color maintenance kits, which are selling in droves among their loyal client base. It’s people like Mary Alice Latta, a hairstylist at the salon, who embody the spirit of innovation in this country.

COVID-19 also has me thinking about the small businesses where I’ve worked in my lifetime – mostly local restaurants. Can they survive this time of unprecedented difficulty for SMBs? Will their resilience and entrepreneurial skills be enough to make it through? And, perhaps most importantly, what can I do to help? We should all be asking ourselves this question right now. Many of us don’t have the means to help out in a major way, or even in a small way. But if you’re able, simply ordering one takeout meal or purchasing one $20 gift card makes a difference. You may not be able to do everything for small businesses right now, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing something. When you add them all together, the small acts of each community member make a big impact.

I’m proud to still be working for a small business today. It’s this lovely little boutique agency that you’ve probably heard of, Parklife Communications. Chances are, we’ve all had some kind of personal connection to a local business, the type of connection that goes beyond anything you might have with a big-box retailer. I think that’s why communities are rallying together to support SMBs. They are the heart and soul of our nation, the lifeblood of entrepreneurship, and the world capital of innovation. Let’s all do what we can to support them while staying safe and healthy during this time.

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