In April, Grow Smarter conducted a Community Needs Assessment with our steering committee and community partners. Based on that document, we designed a comprehensive response to COVId-19 to help build resilience and continued prosperity for all of St Pete. Our community response launched 90 days ago, includes the Business Resiliency Team, resource support, and several community investment initiatives. In that time, we’ve been able to provide immediate support to our city and learn a few lessons along the way.
The Business Resiliency Team
The BRT initial outreach focused on gathering business information through Grow Smarter’s partner network. Currently, BRT navigators are working with over 100 businesses. Over half of these businesses are women-owned brick and mortars with fewer than 5 employees. Further, our BRT focused on supporting black-owned businesses, which make up nearly 15% of participating businesses.
An important lesson from BRT data is that many local businesses need help with creating new innovative marketing strategies for their products and services as they move online. Many businesses have lost money, with an average of 40% decline in sales revenue since COVID-19 began. Further, even though we were able to distribute hundreds of masks through the BRT, many businesses are still having trouble obtaining the necessary products and practices to maintain safe work environments during the COVID pandemic.
Finally, we are grateful to the partnerships and generosity that have made the BRT so successful: Green Book Tampa Bay, the Urban League, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, and the St. Pete Arts Alliance for helping spread the word; the EDC for staff support; the Greenhouse, the Chamber, and the City for working with us to make the program happen; Deuces Live and other business districts for helping us reach businesses in need. We appreciate all of you!
Grow Smarter contributed $25,000 to One Community’s #InThisTogether COVID support program, to distribute to businesses and residents of South St. Pete in the form of microgrants, new contracts, and gigs. At this point, more than 50 grants have been distributed to business owners in the beauty industry, creatives, and other hard-hit industries.
We also created an endowed Grow Smarter Scholarship Program at SPC, of which $25,000 will be distributed this year. The scholarship will be for certification programs in the Grow Smarter targeted industry areas. Grow Smarter will aim to amplify this investment by soliciting additional donations from other partners. With applications for the scholarship closed as on July 24, there were over 60prospective students that applied, and the recipients will be announced soon.
Resource Support in South St. Pete
Grow Smarter funded three GoZone Wi-Fi hotpots around South St. Pete at the Warehouse Arts District Association, Child’s Park, and Tangerine Plaza. We also underwrote free Wi-Fi on the Deuces Live corridor, which is now up and running.
The resource and resiliency hub located at the Warehouse Arts District Association has distributed 7500 meals and 9000 lbs. of food to families in need thanks to our partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, Bay Area Legal Council, Deuces Live, One Community, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete, and other organizations.
While we are proud to have been a part of these programs and partnerships, we know the work is far from done. We are working with our Steering Committee and partner organizations to look back at our efforts, identify new needs, and evaluate our next steps
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