Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce helping small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jun 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-30 22:11:55-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Kim Keene has owned Starving Artist Cafe in Norfolk for five years.

“We've had to be really creative,” Keene said.

She told News 3 the last few months have been challenging during the pandemic.

“We were mainly a dine-in business. We didn't do a lot of take out. So, we had to completely switch gears,” Keene said. “We've had to bring in some other stuff that we thought would be better to sell.”

At one point, she said their numbers dropped.

“For two months, we were at a third of what we were,” she said. “It was tough. We had to cut staff [and] had a lot of people go on unemployment.”

Now, looking towards Phase Three, she's keeping the landscape at her cafe the same for safety reasons.

“I think people are still so nervous about being close in the dining room,” she said.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses across Hampton Roads have had to navigate how to stay afloat.

“The biggest challenge for small business owners is you have to know your numbers, or there is no - N-O - money,” Jim Carroll, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Small Business said.

Carroll is also with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Hampton Roads.

He said, during the pandemic, the SBDC has talked with businesses about the decision of whether to keep their doors open.

“We have talked to about 30 or 40 businesses, but that's just the tip of the iceberg,” Carroll said. “Businesses went from business as normal to now literally trying to figure out how they're going to pay the bills, because all of their income dried up.”

The chamber has created an online COVID-19 business recovery guide.

“That site provides a wealth of information that people really don't have access to, or really they don't know it exists,” he said. “They can find a ton of information that is relevant to them, either reopening their business or restarting their business, and moving forward from there.”

Carroll said the Virginia SBDC network has also provided recovery resources for small businesses.

He said the chamber plans on starting up networking and training events as Phase Three gets underway.

“It's a challenge, but we're going to get through it, and we will be stronger from it,” Carroll said.

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