A number of multinational corporations have pledged their support for small businesses that have taken a financial beating from the coronavirus.
Tech giants Amazon and Facebook, among others, have launched major initiatives to help get SMEs back on their feet using a range of resources from funding to technology, to virtual events and more.
This comes around three months after lockdowns were implemented to varying degrees by different governments across the globe and their respective economies hit. Small independent businesses have borne the brunt of the financial fallout.
Amazon has teamed up with Enterprise Nation to launch the Amazon Small Business Accelerator programme designed to help 200,000 small businesses and start-ups in the UK
An anticipated 531,000 businesses in the US are set to go under this year while the same is expected of a fifth of small businesses in the UK, according to the Future Strategy Club.
There are various schemes available to help get businesses through this uncertain time, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Small Business Grant Fund and Bounce Back Loans.
But these have fallen short, with many ineligible to receive support and, according to a survey by Nucleus Commercial Finance, one in seven SME owners is being forced to dip into their own personal savings.
In a bid to help, Amazon and Enterprise Nation, a small business support network, are launching the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, a major support package for more than 200,000 small businesses and startups across the UK.
Businesses can take a free online diagnostic test to find the ‘learning path’ that best fits with the current stage of their business – ‘Start’, ‘Grow’ or ‘Turbo’.
Week-long virtual bootcamps will be held to provide training and expertise for up to 1,000 mostly offline companies to help them start trading online while other industries can join a five-day live online course with access to experts and peer-to-peer networking.
Bootcamp participants can also access 12 months of support from accredited advisers for marketing, operations and managing finances as well as a range of benefits including discounts and credits from Amazon and partners.
Amazon and Enterprise Nation are running week-long virtual bootcamps to provide training and expertise for up to 1,000 mostly offline companies to help them start trading online
Storage and removal fee waivers for new selling partners on fulfilment by Amazon are being introduced, while Amazon Launchpad, the company’s scheme that promotes products from the latest startups, has offered ongoing fee relief and online training.
Doug Gurr of Amazon, said: ‘Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy and by helping them we can help families, communities and the UK bounce back more quickly.
‘We have a long track record of supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, with more than half of all products sold on Amazon stores coming from our selling partners.
‘Now the Amazon Small Business Accelerator with Enterprise Nation will provide thousands of offline and online businesses with the skills, tools and support they need to succeed in the digital world, to reach customers through Amazon or any other service.’
Payments companies American Express and Visa have also announced schemes to support small businesses.
The former has introduced the ‘Shop Small Summer’ offer which will see customers who use their Amex card in any participating small businesses receive a £5 statement credit, when they spend £10 or more.
This is available until 13 September, and can be used up to 10 times for a total of £50 in statement credits.
Lewis Freeman, owner of Dunn’s Bakery in Crouch End, is one of the many merchants Visa is working with as part of the ‘Shop Local. Support Local’ campaign
Meanwhile the latter has launched ‘Shop Local. Support Local.’ – an initiative to help small businesses adapt, build digital capabilities and meet consumer demand for cashless payments, both online and in stores.
Visa aims to help eight million small businesses in Europe and 50 million globally in addition to its commitment from its Visa Foundation to provide $210 million in Covid-19 relief funding to address the longer-term needs of the small and micro business community over the next five years.
It is running this with support and resources from a number of other businesses including eBay, Deliveroo, Elavon and Shopify.
For example, merchant processor Elavon has introduced more flexible and contactless solutions to help maintain social distancing rules while e-commerce brand Shopify is helping small businesses scale to the next level.
Virtual roadshows and toolkits
Social media giant Facebook, which already boasts success in supporting small businesses through its marketplace programme, is also doing its bit to help them further with a new scheme in partnership with Be the Business.
Together they will launch a range of support measures designed to help 1.4million micro and small businesses. These include virtual events, peep-to-peer groups and a new ‘Messenger Bot’ offering tailored advice depending on the status of the business, whether they be ‘hibernating’, ‘surviving’, ‘pivoting’, or ‘thriving’.
The bot will provide advice in areas such as how to access government resources, finances and forecasting, supply chains, business models and innovation, technology adoption and how to foster workforce wellbeing and leadership.
Meanwhile a ‘Boost with Be the Business’ virtual roadshow will be held on 29 July, and will feature workshops and expert-led business advice.
Steve Hatch, vice president for Northern Europe at Facebook, said: ‘Small businesses are currently in survival mode.
‘Digitally enabled businesses are resilient businesses, and we are committed to providing the tools and resources that enable SMEs to drive economic growth, create jobs and strengthen communities across the UK.’
The coronavirus has drastically impacted businesses across the country as well as the way we work, live and interact with each other
Another programme small businesses can benefit from is ‘Back to Business’ by Barclays Bank and the Cambridge Judge Business School. It is free to use for all UK SMEs – and not just those which bank with Barclays.
It features a toolkit, which officially launched on 22 June, and contains practical advice, with a working capital calculator and strategies for managing cash flow.
It is also designed to assess the overall health of a business and create a tailored resilience plan. Entrepreneurs have already shared how useful the toolkit has been
Andy Moss, chief executive of Cube International, an events company based in Worcestershire, said: ‘Covid-19 has had a big impact on our industry, which is predominantly sporting events and music.
‘The Back to Business toolkit has been very enlightening – it has not only refreshed my memory of the practicalities of running a business, but it has refocused my attention on the fundamentals.
‘The next 12 months are going to be tough as we wait for the industry to return, but having the toolkit as an easy to follow resource will allow me to review new solutions for the business in the meantime.’
Earlier this month, the bank also launched a ‘Get Local’ partnership with Nextdoor, the neighbourhood hub, to help SMEs promote their skills and services to their local community in a safe way, and let them know that they are open for business.