March 25, 2020
Two people discussing business

Small businesses and entrepreneurs have been greatly affected during the COVID-19 outbreak that has forced several non-essential businesses to shut down and adhere to social distancing guidelines. The Busch School of Business’ Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship is committed to supporting small businesses during these trying times by offering one-on-one coaching, virtual workshops, newsletters, and virtual happy hours to help navigate through the crisis. 

“When we saw all the businesses our students collaborate with during the year plunged into a sudden crisis, we knew we couldn’t just stand by and watch,” said Brian Becker, director of Small Business Outreach for the Ciocca Center. “We committed ourselves to stand with local businesses in whatever way we could.”  

Since the food and beverage industry has been hit especially hard, one of the Ciocca Center’s first steps was to host a virtual gathering of its students, faculty, and its partner Mess Hall — a community of D.C.-based food entrepreneurs — to help with their greatest needs. Becker and Michael Hernandez, entrepreneur-in-residence, hosted two virtual workshops titled "Positioning your Business Amidst COVID-19" for Mess Hall members. 

“We tried to remain calm, realistic, and positive, and reiterated our commitment to helping each of them navigate the crisis,” said Becker. “We reviewed the seminal frameworks that we cover with our Small Business Growth Lab class students, including SWOT analysis (identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), ‘Michael Porter's 5 Forces’, Business Model Canvas, and Core and Explore.”

People in the audience at a Ciocca Center event

A small business conference in February.

The Ciocca Center took questions from members and offered individual consultations. 

Hearing the needs of local businesses gave the Ciocca team a plan for moving forward. The center will ramp up its monthly newsletter to a weekly distribution so that all business owners  the center routinely engages with will receive timely updated resources, and as much encouragement and support as possible. 

The center also has extended its offer of virtual individual consultations with the Entrepreneurship Center team and Busch School of Business professors beyond the Mess Hall partners to all 700 of its contacts. Businesses also can apply to have Busch School students work on projects as part of their hands-on learning experience. 

In addition, the Ciocca Center will host "virtual happy hours" on Mondays at 5 p.m. that encourage collaboration, commiseration, coalition building, and community among small business owners in the D.C. area. (The first happy hour featured partner John Mains from SB Works presenting recommendations for navigating Small Business Administration loans, as well as D.C. and Maryland’s 's disaster legislation.)

“We find ourselves uniquely suited to aid these businesses in their greatest time of need,” Becker said.

Sign up for Ciocca Center’s newsletter for more information about happy hours and other resources HERE.