Re-opening During a Pandemic takes Strategic Planning for Sustainability

As states reopen their economies during the Coronavirus pandemic, opportunities abound to make African American businesses sustainable. To keep your doors, open right now do not disregard the importance of ensuring customers have a safe, healthy shopping experience. Don’t become a statistic because you failed to take measures to assure your customers you care about their health. For long-term sustainability, get your paperwork together. Start being about the business of doing business.

Strategies to implement before opening your doors:

  • Create a written, detailed plan. Don’t leave your re-opening to chance. Meet with your family, stakeholders, and employees to consider all aspects of the business. Try to be as comprehensive as possible. For example, consider your supply chain, trucks are not delivering limited products or may be off schedule- are you able to have inventory and supplies on-hand before opening your doors? Write your plan to stay focused. The economy is volatile be ready to adapt.
  • Protect your Employees. Provide Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to your employees and follow all guidelines for the safest usage. Implement sanitization procedures, for your employees, storefront or building. Examples: if employees display Coronavirus symptoms let them go home, steam clean any clothing after it has been tried on, wipe all pens used to sign receipts and checks. Consider opening with a small staff and bring back more employees as business increases.
  • Protect your Customers. Clients need to feel safe while shopping. This means building trust. Is your building sanitized with regular maintenance? Check temperatures at the door. Don’t allow customers in displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Practice six feet social distancing. Limit the number of customers in the store. Implement one-way aisles. Encourage customers to wear face masks. Consumers are unsure at this time, let them know you have a clean, safe, healthy environment and customers will return.
  • Use Your Resources. Get educated about how to plan, prepare and respond at or for businesses and workplaces. The website provides guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes.
  • Advertise and market your business now and consistently. Emphasize in your advertising and marketing your health and safety measures to ensure a safe experience. Will your business provide curbside shopping? Have you implemented sanitization measures? Do your employees have PPE provided by your business? Are you providing delivery and to-go services? Be loud about your plans to your customers!

Seek free advertising opportunities

Many African American businesses operate on a cash basis and have taken a serious financial hit. Also, it will take some funds to implement safety plans. There are free or low-cost opportunities to market your business and gain funding.

  • If you don’t have a relationship with your bank on is the time to make it happen. It’s important to have a banking relationship because you will need money to keep the doors open until customers return, Consumers are not coming back at 100% immediately. It takes money to implement safety measures. Didn’t receive any PPP or EIDL loans? Get creative about funds. Ask family members to invest. And at the same time build a relationship with a bank so in the future you can tap into local and reliable funding.
  • Get your paperwork in order! Register your business license with your local municipality. Many African American businesses are limited because we lack proper paperwork including tax forms, business licenses and registration with the Secretary of State. This is the world we live in. Get your paperwork in order It will open more opportunities.
  • Take advantage of free advertising and marketing opportunities. Use social media to get the word out about your business. Create a Facebook page and Twitter account for your business. Announce your reopening and safety/health plans. Take a video of employees sanitizing the building and post it. Instagram, Linkedin, Youtube, TikTok or social media outlets have basic free accounts. They work. Use them.
  • Use online meeting spaces. Zoom, Slack, Streamyard are blowing up because of the Corona Virus pandemic. Facebook and Google are rapidly building their meeting spaces. Use their free basic levels to build an audience and stay in touch with your customer base.  Do not have time? Grab a young family member and help give them a valuable skill set by partnering to build your online presence.
  • Utilize the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce! We are available to listen and strategize about your marketing ideas and implementation. Contact us! [email protected] We also have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. We will promote your business whether you are a member or non-member. We are in this together!
  • We are all in with the online presence to help raise the profile of members and non-members. We have launched “5 Minute Food Finds” which promotes Gullah/African American owned restaurants airs Monday – Friday at 10am. “What’s the Biz?” launches on Monday, May 11th and will feature all types of African American businesses 2pm Monday – Friday.
  • Our bi-weekly online show “A Gathering Place” featuring African American experts and changemakers in the fields of environmental justice, social justice, medicine, science, faith-based, politics, the arts and education and more. Do you have a great topic for the show or want to be profiled? Contact the Gullah Geechee Chamber.

Now is not the time to merely survive. We can thrive if we all work together. You are going to make it happen.

For more information about this, contact Marilyn L. Hemingway at 843-318-8644 or [email protected]

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