Business support groups call for clarity on federal relief, resilience from entrepreneurs

Representatives of entrepreneurial support organizations from across Missouri called for more clarity about financial assistance available to small businesses and encouraged entrepreneurs to continue innovating during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a virtual panel hosted by Missouri Business Alert.

With a second round of Small Business Administration loans totaling over $380 billion, better guidance about the loans and when to use them is still needed, according to Jessie Yankee, director of the Missouri Women’s Business Center in Columbia.

“There’s still a ton of confusion between business owners” about different loans available to them, Yankee said. “The big question we have right now that we’re still trying to figure out the answer to is, ‘How do I use this money correctly?’”

Despite some entrepreneurs’ confusion over federal loan programs, there is widespread agreement among Missouri business founders that capital is essential during the pandemic.

In a survey of Kansas City entrepreneurs conducted by KCSourceLink in late March, 70% of respondents said they needed additional funding or financial assistance, while over 25% needed marketing assistance.

“We’re hearing from these entrepreneurs … where could they find opportunities outside of a loan, and then general marketing support,” said Alexces Bartley, director and network builder at MOSourceLink in Kansas City. “So (there are) a lot of questions around, ‘I need to find a way to reach my customers and deliver my products or services in a way that is allowed with social distancing.’”

Dr. Cheryl Watkins-Moore, director of the STEM Entrepreneur Inclusion Initiative at BioSTL in St. Louis, noted how COVID-19 is affecting entrepreneurs financially and from a marketing standpoint.

“What any startup with any entrepreneur needs is capital and customers,” she said. “And I think what’s being impacted are both because … we are in this circuitous type of issue right now.”

Watkins-Moore advised entrepreneurs to remain responsive and adaptive during difficult times.

“You need to get yourself ready so that you are able to access new opportunities as they come up,” she said. “You also need to be thinking about how to pivot your business.”

Paige Oxedine, program coordinator for the efactory in Springfield, encouraged entrepreneurs to reach out to resource centers during this time of small business crisis and to continue approaching problems with an innovative mindset.

“Resiliency … is what I think makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur and is what will also equip them to come out of this situation,” she said.

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