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by Amy Blaschka
May 04, 2020
by Amy Blaschka
May 04, 2020
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis is palpable everywhere you look. Still, there is a devastating immediacy we all feel as we watch the small businesses in our communities lay off workers and close their doors.
For Adam Grohs, it was a post by one of his favorite bakeries in Miami on how overnight they’d seemingly gone from a thriving business to one desperately hoping to survive the week, that hit home—and spurred him to action.
“I realized that for every single small business I know and love as ‘my local,’” says Grohs, “there are thousands, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands who are in the same boat and may not make it through this.”
After 20 years of working in and around eCommerce at global agencies, Grohs offered to help the bakery set up the ability to sell their goods online. Because they already had a similar effort underway, they were able to launch online purchasing and delivery within days.
The help was a welcome bright spot for Carolina Molea, the owner of L’Artisane Creative Bakery. “It was a big injection of hope and optimism. You can only imagine what these last few weeks have been like.”
Molea’s isn’t the only business feeling the pain. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), 76% of small businesses are negatively impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus, a dramatic escalation from just under one-quarter of small businesses reporting the same earlier this month.
Grohs knew that countless other business owners were overwhelmed and lacked the technical ability or financial means to pivot to an e-commerce model on their own. He began calling old friends, former colleagues, and even some typically fierce industry competitors he felt would share his passion and ambition to make a difference. Within 24 hours, he had assembled a team of 10 leaders across companies in the eCommerce, agency, and consulting landscape who were willing to offer their expertise and experience to help save their local communities and small businesses. And within a day, that number doubled.
Each member of the collective, which also includes Eric Segal and Aditya Pandurangan, is volunteering their time, seeking no fame or profits, and is genuinely looking to help. Though they are representing themselves individually and not through any corporations, the team is comprised of designers, developers, CCOs, CEOs, and business owners hailing from companies such as PixelMEDIA, PFS, LiveArea, Accenture, CapGemini, TAOS Digital, ElasticPath, and Indiegogo, among others.
Their initiative has a simple goal: to change the trajectory of as many small businesses as possible—and ideally small business owners and their employees across America.
“By now, we’re all familiar with ‘the curve’ in terms of coronavirus cases, but the curve of the small business economy is moving just as steep in the other direction,” says Grohs. “We can offer these businesses the expertise, experience, and technical solutions we typically offer our global clients at no cost to them, no strings attached.”
As an immediate first step, they want to help as many small businesses as possible who rely on foot traffic to start up an online storefront. This can be accomplished in as fast as a matter of days or even hours and has the added benefit of helping those businesses traditionally tethered to local neighborhoods increase their exposure regionally and nationally. The group can also assist with setting up local delivery, ship-from-store, as well as logistics and customer service.
“Aside from the team we’ve assembled,” says Grohs, “we think the quickest way to flip the script is to make as many people as possible aware of why and how they should support their local small businesses. We simply can’t let them fail.”
And Grohs knew exactly who to call to help spread the word: his former colleague Brian Schulman, founder and CEO of Voice Your Vibe, who hosts a highly popular live show called What’s Good Wednesday on LinkedIn.
“When Adam reached out to me to let me know about what was being put together, I immediately asked how I could help, and wanted to dedicate my 100th episode of What’s Good Wednesday as the launch-pad for this incredible movement,” says Schulman.
“Adam was taken aback. I then reached out to my producer at Switcher Studio, Marc Gawith, and asked if he would join me to produce the show in support of this movement. Like me, Marc was ready to help wherever he could.”
And last week, the effort and its new hashtag, #KeepSmallStrong, launched live around the world and featured a number of the contributors to the team as well as multiple small business owners impacted by the coronavirus to share what this tumultuous couple of weeks have been like in their own words.
The initiative is on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as @KeepSmallStrong, and the KeepSmallStrong.org website is now active to raise awareness and recruit small businesses who need help.
Any small business owner can apply for assistance, which for many, will include the rapid designing and launching of digital storefronts and setup of local delivery and national fulfillment. The initiative is also aiming to create a marketplace of sorts where they can aggregate small businesses to connect them to their local communities and increase their exposure regionally as well as nationally.
“We’ve found that many people simply aren’t in tune yet with how critical it is to find a small business or shop local and to help our economy survive,” adds Grohs.
Grohs stresses that anyone can join in and help. “We encourage individuals to spread the word to shop small and find a small business to buy something from right away.”
Technical professionals such as developers and digital marketers are can also help businesses learn the ropes as they navigate uncharted territory for them. And companies can get involved by donating resources, software, and working dollars and time.
Though the group’s initial goal is to help small businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis, Grohs believes it could have far-reaching legs.
“Like so many other aspects of our lives, that may change for the long run or even for good, perhaps this is something that carries on in one form or another. We just want to do what we can, and they need help fast.”
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