Jill Johnson, CEO The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Newark, NJ (Contributed photo)

In 2020, The Institute For Entrepreneurial Leadership
(IFEL) started the Small Businesses Need Us (SBNU) program to help struggling small businesses survive the devastating effects of COVID-19, especially Black & Latinx businesses who were disproportionately affected. As many small businesses work to recover, SBNU continues to help them navigate the changing business climate and adapt to the pandemic’s long-term effects and devastating disruptions.

Through the Small Businesses Need Us program, volunteers deliver impactful support to small business owners during online events, including small business Hackathons, Ask The Experts group sessions, and Success Circles advisory meetings. All events provide hands-on, high-touch implementation support to small businesses along with the capacity to help them tackle their most difficult business issues and to eradicate barriers standing in their way.

Tatia M. Anderson, CEO of The Strategic Hub, Inc., a professional services firm that provides administrative management services to small businesses, corporations, and government agencies, cited the type of meaningful impact delivered by SBNU volunteers. Recently, Anderson attended a financial projections Hackathon. “You probably can see me beaming from ear to ear. You never disappoint, and IFEL always brings impressive people. Going into this, I thought it would be one thing. But instead, I got life lessons; I got business lessons, and there were a lot of ‘aha’ moments. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity IFEL is giving me,” she said.

SBNU volunteers also derive great satisfaction from the program and are passionate about making an impact. Adebimpe Baderinwa-Olajide, a vice president with Santander Bank, a corporate partner, helps small business owners in financial statements and competitive analysis. “While small business owners are always passionate about their businesses, they sometimes forget the finances. With SBNU, I have the opportunity to provide financial insights to increase revenue. Some small businesses have no plans to pay themselves, and I can direct their attention toward the bottom line and offer ideas for growth,” Baderinwa-Olajide said.

The impact often reaches far beyond the classroom. Baderinwa-Olajide remains in contact with the businesses she helps and, in one case referred a program participant to Santander Bank. ‘Ask the Expert’ events are offered in conjunction with the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready platform, designed to help struggling small businesses succeed in today’s fast-paced digital economy. Connecting small business owners with industry leaders on a wide range of key business topics is an important component of ‘Ask The Experts.’ Topics include digital and social media marketing, capital access, understanding financial statements, and more.

The weekly online sessions are interactive through video-conferencing and provide a deep dive into specific business topics. “Small Businesses Need Us provides the resources to help hard-working neighborhood business owners survive,” said IFEL CEO Jill Johnson. “Our corps of dedicated volunteers have heeded the call to help and understand that the success of small businesses is critical to economic recovery and stability. In 2022, more than 850 SBNU volunteers assisted 5,734 businesses, a testament to the power and dedication of program volunteers and the expertise they provide. SBNU’s experienced program coordinators make volunteering easy by providing all materials to volunteers in advance to ensure successful sessions with business owners. Corporate volunteer partners receive communication kits to share with their teams to encourage participation.

Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership – IFEL

https://www.weareifel.org “We help entrepreneurs and small business owners connect to the knowledge, networks and capital they need to succeed,” Johnson concludes. The success of Small Businesses Need Us is due, in part, to a generous grant from the Verizon Foundation.

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