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Over the last few months, I have been writing a three-part series of articles geared toward small businesses as they reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In my first post, I shared advice for how to safely reopen storefronts. These four steps ensured small businesses could reopen storefronts that had previously closed for months during the COVID-19 shutdown to safely welcome back employees and customers. The second post reviews how to transition into reopening.

Each state in the United States is slowly phasing into reopening businesses. These phases come with guidelines for how business may be conducted including equipping workers with PPE and providing customers with guidelines that cover wearing masks and practicing social distancing in storefronts.

My final post in this series takes a look at the road ahead for small businesses.

This is not an easy article to write because so much of it is still uncertain. At the present time, many states that moved to reopen businesses at Stage 3 are backtracking on this decision. They are moving back to Stage 2, where they may be able to take a slower pace for reopening to better protect public health and safety.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to more information than anyone else. I do not know the specific date in which stay at home orders will end. I do not know when higher-risk spaces, like concert venues and amusement parks, will reopen to crowds again, nor do I know when it will be safe to return to traditional offices.

The road ahead to being back in business remains just as difficult for small business owners. Even with the help of PPP funding, many businesses have had to shut their doors again after only a few weeks of their reopening due to changes in state orders. Small businesses need our support now more than ever. Here’s what we can do to make this road ahead easier to tread.

Apply for Additional Business Relief

In addition to PPP funding, small businesses struggling to stay financially afloat in 2020 will need to look into additional funding resources. COVID-19 has seen the creation of dozens of loans, relief funds, and grants. These range from loans created by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to relief funds initiated by social fundraising platforms like GoFundMe.

Prequalify Now for Money to Help Your Small Business During the Pandemic

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Applying for funding support, however, often leaves many entrepreneurs waiting to find out if they have been approved for aid. Many small businesses are not content to put all of their eggs into one PPP basket. Instead, they are stepping up and utilizing crowdfunding platforms like KickStarter and Indiegogo to encourage loyal customers to donate in support of their business. Even just $5 can make all the difference in helping to keep the doors open. Give what you are able, then share the link with others in your network to drum up supportive word of mouth.

Shop Local

Take a moment to think about where you make your purchases. Then, complete the following sentence with a local alternative.

“If I shop at (X) for (Y), I can shop with (Z) instead for (Y).”

Here are a few various examples of this sentence to get started:

“If I shop at Amazon for books, I can shop with an indie bookseller for my favorite titles.”

“If I go to Whole Foods for groceries, I can visit the weekend farmer’s market to stock up on produce.”

“If I frequent the McDonald’s drive-thru, I can call in an order for curbside pickup at the neighborhood deli shop for sandwiches.”

Are you familiar with the hashtag #ShopSmall? This is the hashtag associated with Small Business Saturday, a yearly event created by American Express to support small businesses. Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday every November. Holiday shoppers are encouraged to shop at their favorite local small business on this day.

Consider the significance of the #ShopSmall hashtag in a COVID-19 landscape. Think of all the ways you can alter your existing shopping habits to better support businesses in and around your community. Commit to shopping with small businesses to show your support and ensure Main Street keeps its beloved brick and mortar storefronts open and thriving.

Stay Nimble

Entrepreneurship has never been for the faint of heart. There is no “right” time to quit every stable aspect of your life and start an unpredictable small business that allows you to pursue your dreams. There is also no guarantee that your startup will become an overnight success. You will fall down, struggle to keep going, and make mistakes often. But here’s the secret — every entrepreneur goes through the exact same process. Think of it as a small business rite of passage. You have to fall off the horse (several times) before you may learn how to ride it. Even years into it, the ride will still surprise you.

While much of the future and the ongoing pandemic remains uncertain to everyone, I do know one thing is absolutely certain. Great opportunities come out of difficult times. This is why it’s so important that entrepreneurs see this time as one where they may be nimble.

How does one become nimble? It all begins with the way you see the present moment. Is this a moment to despair and lose hope? Or is it the moment where you must seize a great change in order to improve? The nimble entrepreneur knows that they must go out on a limb in order to reach ripe fruit.

In the months to come left in 2020, channel your nimble entrepreneur. Use the down time you have to think and create. Talk with your team and identify trends and areas where there is room to pivot, adapt, learn, and grow. As the next normal dawns, you will be ready to greet the day with a head full of great ideas, bright eyes, and a body that will hit the ground running with pent-up, innovative strategies to improve all areas of business and life.

The road ahead to being in business may be defined by one word: onward!

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

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