The economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has hit everyone’s pockets in different ways. The stock market has seemingly bounced back stronger, while most Americans are barely making ends meet.

Most small businesses are feeling the effects of the pandemic just like regular people.

“Once South by Southwest was cancelled in mid-March, the pandemic became real for the small business community here in Austin because all of that anticipated revenue dried up,” said Kendall Antonelli, co-owner of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. “In order to survive, we changed 10 years of business in 10 days. And when we were making all of those changes, we had one customer approach us and he simply said, ‘Just tell me how I can help.’ So that continues to be a lesson we are learning throughout the pandemic: listen to our customers but also tell them how they can help us.”

Big companies quickly took notice of communities like Antonelli’s, and was the impetus for

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Small Unites is a new national advocacy program designed to rally consumers and communities across the country to champion local small businesses during this time.

“There’s more that we can do. There’s more that we want to do. And we think we have a fairly unique perspective on how we might rally a group of partners together to really stare at this problem … of how we can we really support and drive an ecosystem of support for small businesses,” said Jenn Garbach head of business brand marketing for Capital One.

Capital One Business, GoFundMe, HundredX, the National Urban League and Ogilvy are partners in creating a platform where individuals and businesses can shop, donate or connect with resources.

“With the pandemic the peaks and valleys of (small businesses) day-to-day are even more dramatic and happening in really rapid succession. Winning a big contract under these circumstances is awesome, but then realizing immediately after that that you’ve got a supply chain problem in being able to get the supplies to fill that order,” said Garbach.

As of early 2019, small businesses accounted for 44% of U.S. economic activity. But in a recent survey by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the impact the coronavirus has taken on small businesses, about 70% are concerned about financial hardship due to prolonged closures and 58% worry about having to permanently close.

Those who are able to donate will be able to find a centralized hub of small businesses with verified fundraisers to give directly to, or they can choose to give to an overall fund, the Small Business Relief Fund. Donations are tax deductible.

But for those who themselves are strapped for cash, they can still help by using the HundredX platform, which has users leave private reviews about great local businesses they know. When they do, HundredX will contribute up to $2 for every piece of qualifying feedback to causes supporting small and minority-owned businesses, up to a program cap of $1 million.

Individuals can provide each review in around 60 seconds and quickly create monetary impact. 

For businesses that sign up, Small Unites will provide a toolkit, including guides and how-tos from Ogilvy on marketing, public relations, social media, B2B and direct-to-consumer communication.

Small Unites says it represents a $50 million collective investment of time, resources and donations.

“My personal hope is that everyone who has ever shopped at or supported a small business joins this effort,” said John Hayes, former chief marketing officer and Small Unites executive director. “We’ve made it easy to participate by meeting people where they’re at based on the level of support they can realistically give in today’s economy, so it truly can be an all-hands-on-deck effort. To make a big impact, everyone just needs to do one small thing, and best of all, there aren’t any prerequisites to join in – we just need you.”

Follow Josh Rivera on Twitter: @Josh1Rivera.

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