“I knew that the restaurant industry was a heartbreaker, but I never saw this coming. This was my dream,” says Chrissy Nucum, owner of KC Pinoy. Chrissy’s last day of business for the foreseeable future was only 48 hours ago. “What if I can’t open again?”
If you’ve been on any form of social media recently, you’ve likely seen this same question repeated by all kinds of businesses across the Kansas City metro. It’s a time of great stress and anguish, but there are also opportunities for innovation.
Chef Howard Hanna from The Rieger has not only donated his salary to his staff, but he turned his upscale restaurant into a community kitchen that feeds those in need. His problem was simple: “What can I do for my employees?” His solution was anything but. By completely changing his business model and working off donations from the community, Hanna can keep his employees working, and at the same time, serve hundreds of meals to needy people throughout the community.
Benay Shannon of Restless Spirits Distilling Co. used her distillery to produce hand sanitizer to donate to local nonprofits, emergency services personnel, and hospital staff. She saw a problem and pivoted to help find a solution.
Ruby Jean’s Juicery, founded by Chris Goode, has begun cold pressing juice in bulk and closing all but their Troost location in order to downsize-but-survive, while still providing immunity-boosting food and beverages to an underserved area.
The things each of these businesses have in common are innovation and a community focus. At the Library, we’re innovating too! And that means changing the rules of how Square One delivers its support to small businesses. Right now, walking into a building and attending a live program isn’t an option, so we’re using social media to bring these programs to you through platforms like Facebook Live, which allows people to access and contribute no matter where they are. We’re also offering one-on-one business counseling via screen sharing.
Our job is to connect small businesses and entrepreneurs to information. Kansas City has 240 business resource organizations, and the Library is proud to help get their messages out. For example, have you checked out KC Sourcelink’s new Coronavirus Business Resources hub? Or, did you know that AltCap utilizes a style of funding called microlending that is far more versatile than traditional bank lending? They’ve modified their Fast Start Loan to offer immediate financing assistance to small businesses during these trying times.
The Small Business Administration will soon be announcing all the new funding available through their Disaster Assistance Loans. It’s critical that we get this kind of information into the hands of small business owners as soon as possible.
What we need to do now is come together as a community of businesses. By sharing knowledge, resources, and ideas, we will be able to keep more people at work and create an environment in which our closed businesses like KC Pinoy will be able to reopen. Ultimately, Chrissy is right, the restaurant industry is definitely a heartbreaker, and this crisis will definitely take a toll. Nevertheless, we have witnessed some beautiful moments of humanity in restaurants across the metro over the last four days. The people who own restaurants feel the drive to nurture and nourish their communities. Keep eyes on these entrepreneurs during this crisis. Let them show you what innovation and gumption can do.
This is our call to action! If you can safely buy from a local business, do it. If you know a business owner who is struggling, let them know that the Kansas City business resource community is available to them. Follow us at Square One Small Business Services on Facebook and share the information we put out. We have to get the word out.
-Square One Small Business Services at MCPL