One small town in Washington has flipped an old adage on its head: Here, money does grow on trees.
This twist was spurred on by the recession generated by COVID-19. With little economic movement happening in its town of 2,000, Tenino, Wash. began printing wooden dollars.
These dollars aren’t legal US tender, but they are backed by the town’s general fund. These wooden bucks have become so successful that roughly 200 businesses in and around Tenino accept the new form of currency.
While other communities may not be circulating wooden money, Tenino’s local currency isn’t alone in the wake of the pandemic.
In southern Italy, the small town of Castellino del Biferno began printing “Ducati” banknotes to help the community’s businesses after COVID-19 hit. According to euronews, the town’s 550 residents have spent thousands of the currency at local shops.
“We decided to mint money to make sure the local economy could withstand the impact of the situation,” Castellino del Biferno mayor Enrico Fratangelo said in April. “However small this economy may be, there are three or four businesses still open, without considering bars or pubs.”
And at least one other community has started its own currency due to COVID-19: Shiawassee County in Michigan has been using its ShiaCash program to help businesses stay afloat during these uncertain times.
“Weâve got a lot of people that work in the county that donât live in the county,” Theresa Trecha, an owner of a local bowling alley in Shiawassee County, told MLive. “A lot of those folks, they work and then they go, and so in order to maybe get those people to take advantage a little bit of what the town has to offer — thatâs a great way to do it.”
Local Currencies Can Stabilize Local Economies
For many years, the US dollar has enjoyed success as the world’s currency.
In recent times, however, it has seen challenges from the Euro — the primary currency throughout most of Europe — and the Japanese yen. While local currencies won’t ever rival these global titans of monetary units (in fact, the US is pretty stringent on new currencies; for instance, you can’t use a private currency in an attempt to replace US dollars), they have seen some success at becoming more valuable than the US’ primary form of legal tender.
“We now have people from outside of our borders, so outside of the city, who are willing to pay more than the face value,” Tenino mayor Wayne Fournier told Radio New Zealand. “There are some people who are willing to offer seven times the face value of the currency that we’re printing, so our Tenino dollars are worth more than the US dollar right now in an exchange rate sense.”
Fournier further added in an interview with Fox Business that some businesses in the town are accepting 25 Tenino dollars for as much as $50 worth of goods.
According to the Schumacher Center for New Economics, an organization that has helped grow local currencies in the past, the main advantage of these alternative currencies is that they keep the money local. This in turn helps stabilize small businesses that may otherwise struggle to compete against larger chains. National currencies like the US dollar, meanwhile, can be spent within a community and then be moved outside of the local area. Additionally, these currencies can foster “stronger relationships” between local businesses and their neighboring citizens.
Community Currencies Are Nothing New
The concept of local currencies often gains steam during times of economic downturns. This is actually the second time Tenino has “printed” wooden money — the first was during the Great Depression in the early 1930s.
Tenino’s first go at a community currency was quite popular and it became something of a viral sensation. In fact, hoteliers as far away as Chicago and Eugene, Oregon even accepted the money in lieu of American dollars. The first iteration of the Tenino wooden was such a success that people continued making commemorative versions for tourists up until at least 2018.
Other communities in the past have also seen economical gains by implementing a local currency.
For instance, Berkshares have only risen in popularity since their introduction in 2006 in the Berkshire region of New England. Since inception, the currency has seen over 10 million of its own dollars go out into circulation — for a region of fewer than 25,000 people. Berkshares also net consumers a tidy savings — for every $100 in Berkshares someone spends, it only costs 95 US dollars.
Community currencies have also enjoyed success the world over. Just two years ago, the VaramedÃ launched in Spain. In England, the Brixton Pound has popularly aimed to keep money local in a South London district. There are also active community currencies in places like Japan, New Zealand, and Kenya.
Starting A Local Currency In Your Community
Starting a community currency is no easy task.
You’ll need to first get other organizations and businesses within your community on board. This means reaching out to your local government, chamber of congress, and other business owners. Once you have enough backing to get the ball rolling,
There are tools and organizations able to help, however. Complimentary Currency offers a platform (and an app) that communities can take advantage of to boost their economies. The Schumacher Center also runs its Local Currency Program, which could help get your ideas up and running.
If you find starting a community currency too daunting, there are other ways to help kick start your local economy. For instance, consider a gift card program like the Pay Forward Project in Seattle. Other communities have also found success with passport programs, such as the initiative ran in Gray, Maine.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Forget The Euro: Community Currencies Are Stronger Than The US Dollar appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left the small business world reeling, with businesses forced to shut their doors, lay off staff, or change the way they operate. These sudden and unexpected changes have hit many business owners hard as they struggle to follow social distancing guidelinesÂ and comply with government orders. Unfortunately, many small businesses are already struggling financially or may be in the near future.
Small business aid made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Support Act has been making headlines, but many small business owners missed out on funding, do not qualify, or did not receive enough money to sustain their business for an extended period of time. The good news, though, is that many companies and organizations are offering millions of dollars in grant money to small business owners.
Instead of spending hours scouring the web for legitimate grant programs available to businesses affected by the coronavirus, keep reading. We’ve done the hard work for you by finding the best grants available to help your business clear the hurdles that this year has thrown at us … and the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.
Sam’s Club Small Business Relief Grants
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, particularly underserved communities
Open & Close Date: Round 3 of funding will open on May 14, 2020
Sam’s Club has provided a $1 million grant through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) that will be distributed to small business owners affected by COVID-19. Through this program, small business owners can receive up to $10,000 to cover immediate expenses. Qualified uses for grant funds include payroll costs, rent and utilities, outstanding debts to vendors, upgraded tech infrastructure, and other operational expenses.
Any business that has been affected by COVID-19 can apply for the grant. Priority will be given to underserved communities including businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans, as well as businesses that are particularly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two rounds of funding have already been closed, and the third round opens on May 14. A close date for submitting applications has not yet been announced. Interested business owners can visit the LISC website to learn more about this grant, sign up for email updates, or submit an application.
Verizon Small Business Recovery Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19, particularly underserved communities
Open & Close Date: Round 3 of funding will open on May 14, 2020
Verizon Wireless has donated $7.5 million in grant funding that will be distributed through LISC. Businesses may qualify to receive up to $10,000 to use for immediate operational expenses, including outstanding debts to vendors, rent and utilities, payroll costs, and other purposes.
Businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 can apply. However, priority will be given to business owners in underserved communities that are unable to secure funds elsewhere. Businesses that have been particularly challenged during the pandemic will also receive priority.
The grant funds will be distributed through three rounds of funding. The first two rounds are closed, and the third opens on May 14. A close date for the submission of applications has not yet been announced. If you’re interested in this grant, you can apply, sign up for email updates, and learn more through LISC.
GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Available to independently owned and operated businesses affected by COVID-19. All recipients must raise at least $500 through the GoFundMe platform.
Open & Close Date:Â Currently open; submissions will close when funds have been depleted
GoFundMe has launched its own fundraiser to help small business owners. The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund has raised over $2 million that will be used to provide matching grants of $500 to qualified business owners.
Any business is eligible to apply provided they meet a few requirements. Businesses must be independently owned and operated. Businesses that are nationally dominant in their fields are not eligible to receive a grant. Furthermore, all recipients must have been affected by COVID-19 and must use funds to pay employees or ongoing operational expenses.
To be eligible for a $500 grant, all recipients must register to confirm their small business status. Recipients must also launch a GoFundMe fundraiser and raise at least $500 in funds. All fundraisers must include the hashtag #SmallBusinessRelief to qualify. Grants will continue to be distributed until all funds are depleted. The GoFundMe Small Business Relief Fund campaign page and the program FAQs provide all of the information you need to secure your grant.
FedEx #SupportSmall Grants
Eligibility Criteria: For-profit businesses in the US that have been in operations for at least 12 months, have fewer than 50 employees, made less than $5 million in sales revenue in 2019, and have shipped or plan to ship
Open & Close Date: Submissions will be accepted from May 25, 2020, through June 12, 2020.
FedEx is showing its support of small businesses by providing a total of $1 million in grant funding to eligible applicants. The 200 recipients of this grant will each receive $5,000 plus a $500 FedEx Office credit that can be used for posters, banners, and other marketing and promotional materials.
To be eligible, all applicants must be at least 18 years old and operate a US-based business. Only for-profit businesses can apply. Qualifying businesses must have been in operations for at least 12 months, have less than $5 million in sales revenue from 2019, and have fewer than 50 employees. All applicants must also have shipped within the last 12 months or are planning to ship within the next 12 months. Franchises, resellers, independent consultants, nonprofits, and previous winners of FedEx Small Business Grants are not eligible.
The application period opens on May 25, 2020. Applications will no longer be accepted after June 12, 2020. Interested business owners can apply directly through FedEx.
Nav’s Small Business Grant
Eligibility Criteria: Any Nav customer with a social media account
Open & Close Date: The current round runs from February 24, 2020, through May 30, 2020. A new submission period opens quarterly.
Nav’s Small Business Grant isn’t specifically for businesses affected by the coronavirus — any Nav customer can qualify. Every quarter, three recipients are selected to receive grants. The winner of first prize receives a check for $10,000. The first runner-up receives a grant for $2,000, while the second runner-up receives $1,000.
To qualify for this grant, you must be a Nav customer. Then, you must create a post and share it on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Your post should discuss a challenge that your business has faced and how you plan to use your grant. Nav encourages participants to get creative with their posts by including photos, creating videos, or recording audio. Nav must be tagged in the post for the submission to be considered.
This grant program is ongoing and accepts new submissions each quarter, so if you miss out on this round, don’t worry — you can take part in the next round. Check out past submissions, tips for creating your post, and learn more about this grant by visiting Nav.
COVID-19 Business for All Grants
Eligibility Criteria: Any US-based business affected by the coronavirus
Open & Close Date: This contest is open from March 26, 2020, through July 16, 2020.
Hello Alice has partnered with companies like eBay and Verizon to distribute funds through the COVID-19 Business For All Grant program. Through this program, qualifying small businesses can receive a $10,000 grant.
Qualifying for this grant is easy. The program is open to any US-based business that does not engage in illegal or illegitimate activities. All entrants must sign up for a Hello Alice account and complete the online application. Winners will be selected based on their need for funds and how grant funds will be used. You can learn more about this grant and submit your application through Hello Alice.
Supermaker’s Entrepreneurial Dream Project
Eligibility Criteria: New businesses or businesses that haven’t yet launched, less than $2.5 million in gross annual revenue, and an active business website and social media account
Open & Close Date: Applications are due by June 15, 2020
Supermaker’s Entrepreneurial Dream Project is aimed at new businesses or businesses that haven’t even gotten off the ground yet that have been impacted by the coronavirus. Two winners will be selected to split a grant of $100,000. Ten additional winners will be selected to receive mentoring through the Supermaker Mentor Network.
Businesses that made their products available in 2019 or later are eligible. Businesses that have not yet launched may also apply. Existing businesses must have less than $2.5 million in gross annualized revenue. Products must currently be sold or ready to sell within six months of applying to qualify. Eligible entrants must also have a US-based business, an active website, and social media accounts showing entrepreneurial activity.
Winners will be picked based on criteria including the business’ mission statement, sustainability, and proposed use of funds. Interested applicants can go directly to Supermaker to check out FAQs, read tips for submitting a good application, and apply for this grant.
The Conductor Foundation
Eligibility Criteria: Nonprofit organizations
Open & Close Date: Ongoing
The Conductor Foundation grant program is different than other grants on this list. First, it’s open to nonprofit organizations. This also isn’t a monetary grant but does offer more opportunities for growth and online visibility.
Winners of this grant will receive Conductor Searchlight SEO technology, Keyword Discovery Services, and ongoing support from the team at Conductor.
Applicants do not have to be affected by COVID-19 to qualify, and this contest is ongoing. Interested nonprofits can learn more and submit a one-page application directly through The Conductor Foundation.
Amazon’s Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Small businesses with less than $7 million in annual revenue or fewer than 50 employees that are located in select neighborhoods in Seattle and Bellevue
Open & Close Date:Â Undetermined
Amazon has created the $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to small businesses located in select Washington State neighborhoods. The amount of each award varies and will be determined based on information received during the application process. Funds should be used to cover day-to-day operational expenses and to improve cashflow.
To qualify, businesses must be located within close proximity of Amazon’s offices in Regrade, South Lake Union, and Bellevue. All eligible entrants must have less than $7 million in annual revenue or fewer than 50 employees. The grant program is open to any business that is open to the public and relies heavily on foot traffic.
Amazon has a page that allows you to determine eligibility and register to apply. The company also has a list of FAQs and additional information to help interested business owners find out more about this funding opportunity.
PBA COVID-19 Relief Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Licensed beauty professionals unable to work as a result of COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Ongoing until funds are depleted
Licensed beauty professionals that have been unable to work due to the coronavirus can apply for a grant through the Professional Beauty Association COVID-19 Relief Fund. Eligible entrants will receive a $500 Visa gift card that can be used to purchase supplies or cover immediate expenses.
A lottery process is used to determine winners of this grant. To date, over $1 million has been distributed to help beauty professionals, and the contest will be ongoing until funds are depleted.
Interested applicants must submit an application. The PBA also offers FAQs giving more details on this funding opportunity.
CND x BCL Nail Professional Relief Grant
Eligibility Criteria: Licensed nail professionals employed for at least 12 months that are currently not receiving an income
Open & Close Date: Submissions will be accepted through May 30, 2020
Beauty Changes Lives, through a donation by CND Creative Nail Design, will be awarding grants to nail professionals that have lost their income as a result of COVID-19. Each winner will receive temporary financial relief through a one-time $1,000 grant.
This program is open to licensed beauty professionals that have been employed for at least 12 months as of March 16, 2020. Eligible applicants must also reside in the US and must not be currently be receiving an income.
In addition to submitting an application, entrants must also write an essay of more than 200 words and provide documentation proving identity, number of dependents, licensure, and other information. Submissions will be accepted through the end of May 2020, and winners will be selected through July. Check out Beauty Changes Lives to learn more about this program and to sign up for a chance to win.
The Red Backpack Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Woman-owned businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Application rounds will open on June 1, July 6, and August 3
The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has donated $5 million and partnered with GlobalGiving to help female entrepreneurs through The Red Backpack Fund. This fund will provide a minimum of 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs impacted by the coronavirus. Recipients will also receive an All-Access Pass to MasterClass for mentorship opportunities.
This grant program is open to US-based businesses that are at least 51% women-owned. Eligible entrants must have an EIN, at least one employee but no more than 50, and annual revenues not exceeding $5 million.
There will be multiple rounds of funding for these grants. Application periods are June 1 – June 8, July 6 – July 13, and August 3 – August 10. If your business is interested, check out the FAQs or submit your application. If the fund currently isn’t accepting applications, you can sign up for email updates to be notified when the next round of submissions is open.
The Doonie Fund
Eligibility Criteria: Black female entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19
Open & Close Date: Undetermined
The Doonie Fund was launched by digitalundivided CEO Kathryn Finney to support and empower black female entrepreneurs. The fund was launched on April 5, 2020, and has helped over 500 women to date.
To qualify, all entrants must be an entrepreneur that identifies as both black and female. Eligible recipients must also have been impacted by COVID-19. Recipients will receive $100 to help their business. This is an ongoing fund with no announced submission deadlines.
To get started and to learn if you qualify for the program, submit your application. You can also check out The Doonie Fund page to learn more about the program.
Grants Worth Watching
While some grant programs aren’t currently accepting submissions, there are a few that may offer more funding opportunities in the future.
Visa Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief
The Visa Foundation has committed $10 million to provide immediate relief to organizations on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the foundation has distributed $8.8 million in grant funds to organizations including UNICEF, Feeding America, and Red Cross.
Visa Foundation Small & Micro Business Program
The Visa Foundation has also committed $200 million over the next five years to support small businesses, micro businesses, and the economic advancement of women. Of these funds, $60 million will be allocated to non-government organizations worldwide that support small businesses and micro businesses. The remaining funds will be allocated to investment partners that generate returns for these businesses.
Facebook Small Business Grants Program
Facebook is providing small business grants to up to 30,000 recipients through its Small Business Grants Program. The two-week window to submit an application for a portion of the $100 million fund is closed to US businesses, but businesses in other nations may still be eligible to apply. Additional resources may be made available in the future.
Horst Rechelbacher Relief Fund
The Horst Rechlebacher Relief Fund provides $1,000 grants to unemployed licensed beauty professionals or students enrolled in a licensing program. Although the submission deadline has already passed, interested professionals can keep an eye on the Beauty Changes Lives website for updates.
Other Resources For Coronavirus-Affected Businesses
If you need immediate funding or don’t qualify for any of these grants, you still have options to keep your business afloat during this pandemic. An abundance of resources are available through our COVID-19 hub, including industry-specific survival guides, emergency funding options, credit card payment assistance, and more. We’re continually updating and adding new content to make sure that business owners like you have the financial support and resources needed to weather this storm. Good luck!
The post Take Advantage Of These Small Business Grants For Coronavirus Relief appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 pandemic has riddled the US with both a health crisis and an economic one. Small businesses have been particularly affected — according to the National Federation of Independent Business, 92% of small employers have been negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus.
In response to the woes facing the economy, the US government has allocated funds to help support businesses throughout the country by enacting the $2 trillion CARES Act. One of the programs for small businesses affected by this act is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
As the EIDL’s name might imply, this program involves small businesses taking out a loan. In general, loans must be paid off over time with interest. Being saddled with interest rates and having to repay loans can create additional headaches for any small business owner.
Thankfully, at least part of the money involved with an EIDL may not need to be repaid. If you’ve requested and received an emergency advance as part of the EIDL program, that money can be forgiven. Read through for the full details on how you can receive forgiveness on your EIDL emergency advance.
Can EIDL Loans & Advances Be Forgiven?
There are two parts to the EIDL program: the loan itself and an advance on the loan. The main portion of the loan — which can be as high as $2 million — is generally not forgivable. You’ll need to repay the main portion of your EIDL proceeds. The advance, on the other hand, is a different story.
The advance — which sends $1,000 your way for every employee in your business and caps its limit at $10,000 — effectively acts as a grant. As such, you do not need to repay the advance. That means you’ll be able to put the money right into your business without needing to pay it off in the future.
There is also one exception to the main loan to keep in mind. If you received an EIDL between January 31, 2020, and April 3, 2020, and you apply for a forgivable Paycheck Protection Program Loan and then refinance your EIDL into the PPP, you can essentially have your EIDL forgiven. Note that if you didn’t receive your EIDL before April 3, this exception doesn’t apply to you.
How To Get Forgiveness On Your EIDL Emergency Advance
To receive forgiveness on the advance portion of your EIDL, you’ll need to spend the money you receive on earmarked categories — you can’t just spend it on anything. Per New York state, the eligible categories to trigger the advance’s forgiveness are:
Paid leave to employees
Paying for increased costs to purchase materials
Making repayments on obligations unable to be met due to revenue losses
It’s also worth noting that the advance can still be forgiven even if your EIDL application is ultimately rejected. Additionally, if you take advantage of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, your EIDL advance will be deducted from your PPP Loan forgiveness.
Having earmarked requirements for how the advance can be spent might be frustrating. However, the categories should still provide enough leeway to help keep your business afloat in these unprecedented times.
EIDL Repayment Terms
Because you do have to repay the main portion of your EIDL, you’re probably wondering what repayment terms you might receive. As for this portion of your EIDL, the SBA states that the interest rate will not exceed 4% per year (the current rate is 3.75%), and the term length will not exceed 30 years. Your exact repayment term length will depend on your ability to repay your loan.
These are unquestionably favorable repayment terms, which makes the EIDL program very valuable if you can get approved for a loan.
Additionally, disaster loans in “regular servicing” status on March 1, 2020, will have automatic deferments provided through December 31, 2020, according to the SBA. If your loan falls under this status, it may provide you with additional relief during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Also, remember that because the advance does not need to be repaid, you won’t need to worry about any interest rates or term lengths with that portion of your loan. This means that when estimating the cost of an EIDL, you should first subtract the amount the SBA advanced to your business from the overall loan before calculating the cost.
Other Resources For Coronavirus-Affected Businesses
If you need more help beyond an EIDL or emergency advance, Merchant Maverick has been working hard to lend a helping hand.
Visit our frequently-updated coronavirus hub for a slew of guides and resources to help your business through this turbulent time. You might be particularly interested in understanding the difference between EIDL and PPP Loans. You can also learn how to set up a gift card program for your business or how to best utilize your business credit card.
The post Can My Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) & Emergency Advance For Coronavirus Relief Be Forgiven? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The world has turned upside down. (As a Broadway fan, I have the Hamilton version of that line running through my head on repeat these days.) Small businesses all over the nation find themselves in a rapidly changing climate and making decisions based on state requirements needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Small businesses in the time of COVID-19 are faced with brutal choices and will need to employ creative solutions as the pandemic changes the landscape of our lives.
If you have a service that meets the needs of your community during the pandemic, getting information out to potential customers is a necessity. People right now want to help small businesses thrive, and they are looking for ways to spend their money conscientiously. What are some ways to navigate the balance of marketing a product during difficult times?
Before we look at marketing, it’s important to look at your business: Right now, more than ever, it’s crucial to understand what is an essential business and what is not. I just watched in real-time the complete viral annihilation of an owner’s decision to keep her consignment mall open because she deemed her store and all the vendors paying rent in her store (and all their employees) as “essential business.” (She, herself, was self-isolating in a different state. And three hours after her initial post, she changed her mind.) People are dying — if anyone susses out that you are here for profit/being greedy/to exploit a tragedy — I guarantee the karma (Facebook’s comment section) is swift.
Merchant Maverick’s COVID-19 hub has many resources to weather the storm, but if in doubt — sit it out.
And if your business has a role here as we move forward, then keep on reading, and we’ll explore the best practices together.
The Best Marketing Channels For Small Businesses
Parts of the nation are on full shelter-in-place orders, and others may soon follow. That means that millions of workers and their children are home, in their family rooms, most definitely on their computers or phones, with near-constant access to the internet. We are lucky to live in a digital world that can adapt to the needs of consumers during this pandemic — and the digital world is where you are going to access your potential customers.
Building a newsletter is an essential part of doing business. Why? Because when you have access to someone’s email, you have direct access to that person. They may not open your newsletter, but when they check their email, they will see your name and your subject hook: It’s the best resource you have. Building a newsletter should be seen as an essential part of doing business.
(How can you tell a writer has been a little too self-isolated? I just deleted an attempt to write this section to the tune of Over the Rainbow. I wish I were kidding.) Social media is where you will find your people. Maybe you already have a thriving community on your social media, or perhaps you are building one. Either way, it’s important to think of ways to use various platforms: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat…maybe in that order, depending on your marketing audience.
Direct communication is the best! If you have access to phone numbers, maybe send a quick text update. A skincare business in Portland I have been to once texted to let me know its physical store was closed but is still selling products and gift certificates online. If you have a website, consider blogging about your own experiences. Now is the time, more than ever, to tell your narrative and build a community around your business’s story. Who are you, and how is this pandemic affecting you and yours?
The Ground Rules For Online Marketing
The entire world is really hoping that we can all flatten the curve of this virus and return to normalcy. However, until then, every person and every business needs to make socially responsible choices. That means your business needs to comply with social distancing and follow your governor’s mandates. As with any marketing campaign, be sincere and run your words by many different sets of eyes to ensure your tone is professional and sensitive to the mood of the nation.
If you are asking people to opt-in to your newsletter for freebies/deals, make sure you follow local privacy laws. Also, a good tip is to require only two fields (say: name and email) — any more will cause hesitation, and you might lose the lead.
Build An Email List
One small business owner mentioned that he sent out a newsletter, not to pitch anything, but simply to ask his subscribers how they were doing: How are you? Are you okay? Do you need anything? Small businesses are the bedrock of the community, so first, reach out to your community and see how people are feeling. With self-isolation in full swing across the nation, many people need your words of comfort and offers of help.
You can also use this time to build your list by offering discounts or freebies to people who sign up for your newsletter. (For a gym or yoga studio: If they sign up for your newsletter, maybe they can receive free daily quarantine exercises?)
Create A Social Media Following
There are opportunities to pay for ad campaigns within social media platforms, but it’s important to use your platforms to communicate with your customers and community directly in addition to running ads. People want to help small businesses in their community, but they need to know who is open and how social distancing needs are being met. Use your social media channels to inform and engage.
Keep Your Customers Updated On Changes
I have a local store I love, and I went to all of its social media pages for a COVID-19 update and didn’t find anything. Tell your story and make it easy for people to support you and to know how — put that information far and wide.
If you can still provide curbside or delivery during the pandemic, your business has pivoted and adapted with the changes, or if you are changing your hours or working with a reduced staff, let people know. Use all necessary means to communicate with your customers and encourage people in your community to share your message far and wide.
Use Hashtags & Branding
A hashtag is a way to group your message in with broader messages to attract new followers. As you can imagine, right now, pandemic hashtags are trending along with #stayhome, #stayhomesavelives, and #socialdistancing. Creative hashtags such as #savesmallbusinesses can gain momentum across platforms and will help categorize your information. You can create a hashtag specifically for your business to boost name recognition and your business’s story. Our local used bookstore (and Portland icon), Powell’s, had to shut its doors and lay off the majority of its staff, prompting a #savepowells hashtag to surge and ignite a successful online buying campaign to help keep it afloat.
If you are using your social media consistently to communicate, think about your company’s branding — can someone look at a post and identify your company? What is the overall tone of your company’s message? Keep your social media messages consistent and on-brand. Branding also means you understand your audience and their needs: If you are in a community that is struggling and feeling scared right now, you might want to avoid a tone that feels trite or dismissive of the current news.
5 Marketing Tactics You Can Use To Keep In Touch, Inspire, Motivate & Otherwise Encourage Customers
We are not living in the same world that we were a few months ago. Consumers and attitudes have shifted, thriving businesses have shuttered for the time being, and people have major anxieties. They are scared about the virus, worried about the health of loved ones, scared about their jobs, scared about the overall health of our economy, maybe food insecure or feeling alone, and/or possibly balancing remote work/home school for the first time. Right. So when consumers are dealing with a national emergency, priorities shift. Consider that as you move forward with a marketing campaign.
Marketing is two-fold. Yes, you want to sell the product/service you can offer, but you also want to market your story/your company’s ethos. Here are some marketing tactics that might work well as you look forward.
Promote A Good Cause
Larger corporations have made donations of coffee and sandwiches to health workers, and many smaller businesses are reaching out with offers to donate a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits helping assist communities most impacted by COVID-19. Can you provide free food for kids or the elderly? People want to spend money and know it’s helping small businesses and the people impacted by this emergency: What does your community need, and how can you help?
Run A Contest Or Challenge
Can you drum up some business by offering a contest or challenge to your customers? A game store in Kansas is offering up a $50 gift card to the store to anyone who shows their “19 painted miniatures in 19 days challenge.” A bakery in a suburb of Portland is offering “frost your own cookie kits,” selling them curbside and then highlighting the beautiful cookie art with a hashtag; daily winners via votes get a gift certificate to the store. Take an opportunity to engage your community with an activity or challenge (Bake with Me challenge or Tap with Me challenge; a toy shop near us that sells Legos is running a 30-Day Build-It challenge). All of these things build brand awareness and provide your potential customers with something to engage with.
Use Promo Codes For Online Orders
Are you moving your business online? Or have you already been equipped for online ordering but need to get the word out? Provide a financial incentive to order from you! I ordered some books from a bookstore owner directly over the phone, and she shipped the books free (and they arrived the next day!), and online delivery services are running promotions for free delivery. Entice new customers with a first-time buyer code or offer deep discounts for large orders.
Sponsor A Giveaway
At this point, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too: the toilet paper giveaways. Order a pizza? Get some TP. Drive-thru to our coffee shop? TP while it lasts! If you don’t have 2020’s luxury item on hand to pass out with your product, that’s okay; there are many other things besides toilet paper you can give. This might be an opportunity to team up with a collaborator (another small business in your community) and give away gift certificates to a different business in the neighborhood. If you are a clothing boutique, can you have some fun with quarantine-outfits and sponsor a giveaway of clothes that are perfect to wear at home? This is about what you can offer and how you can help while building your brand and responding to the virus ethically.
Feature Your Customer/Community Stories
This is what speaks straight to my heart: stories. We are all a giant community of humans, and it is local families and local businesses that keep things afloat. Tell your own story but also reach out and see if you can feature other stories, too. Build a community from this isolation, and encourage people to reach out and connect with you and others. Also, feature people who may be asked to work as essential employees — put a name and story to the faces of the people in your business: Let the community know who they are supporting. They are not supporting a business; they are supporting the people behind the business.
The Bottom Line For Online Marketing During A Pandemic
How you face this pandemic can say a lot about your business and your brand. Don’t take the messages you send lightly, and run them through a filter of sensitivity and practicality. But if you have a service you can offer safely to others, yes, communicate that in any way you can to get the word out about how you can help people in your community. Email your list, send a newsletterÂ or a text; be sure to communicate honestly and often, and let people know how they can help you. Have you seen any brilliant or cringe-worthy marketing campaigns related to the pandemic? Share with us in the comments! And stay safe out there.
The post 5 Clever Marketing Tactics For Small Businesses During The Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
With areas facing even more mandatory closures and other restrictions across the country, small businesses are doing everything they can to stay in business and pay employees. While larger businesses may have more resources and available cash flow to manage these disruptions, that’s not usually the case for our local shops and restaurants.
They may be struggling, but many small businesses are also rising up to the occasion. Many are offering delivery and curbside pickup, and getting their sites set up to take orders online for the first time. American small business owners are a resilient bunch, and the best part for us is that they offer culinary delights, artisan talent, resources, and sometimes just whimsy you just can’t find anywhere else. And these are all good things, especially during uncertain times. The truth is that our local small businesses offer us just as much as we can offer them, so let’s think big and shop local. Here’s what you can do to make the best of things and help keep the economy going!
Note to small business owners: Check out our post on how to get online ordering set up!
Let Small Businesses Be The Answer To Social Distancing
Right now, many people are hesitant to do any local shopping because of social distancing, but that certainly does not have to be the case. This is the 21st century, after all! We have technology that can help us circumvent the need to physically enter a store to get what we need.
It’s important to keep our wits about us and not panic during this time so that we can see the opportunities right in front of us. Let’s focus on helping one another, stopping the virus from spreading, and supporting the economy in the process.Â Our local businesses are sometimes the answer we need when we are sitting at home and low on supplies — or even on not-so-essential materials that help pass the time.
10 Ways To Help Your Local Small Business
We all can support small businesses in our area while making life a little easier, healthier, and more fun for our whole family in the process.
1. Order Take-Out
While some restaurants have always provided carry-out options, you might be surprised to find out your local pubs, coffee shops, and bakeries are changing how they serve, too. Visit their sites, check their social feeds, or just give them a call and see how they are handling the changes. And if your favorite local restaurant has always offered take-out, keep them in mind when you’ve been asked, “What’s for dinner?” for the twelfth time today.
Experts generally agree that take-out is a safe option, as COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted by food, and businesses are following strict health code regulations right now regarding employee illness and sanitation.
2. Sign Up For Deliveries Or Curbside Pickup
Continuing the thought from above, many local businesses that don’t normally offer delivery or curbside pickup are now providing this to their customers. Even retail and specialty shops are scrambling to adapt. Of course, third-party delivery services (e.g., Grub Hub, Postmates) are facing a surge in local business sign-ups, too, so there may be more opportunities now than you think.Â To find out who is doing what, check social media feeds and/or websites. Many local restaurants are also offering promotions to help encourage ordering from their patrons, too, so check the company’s Instagram and Facebook feeds for updates and offers.
Some small shops that sell non-food items now offer curbside options, too, so if you need supplies or just want to shop, give the business a call and see if they can put an order together for you for pickup. We know of one store that’s even offering curbside knitting supplies!
3. Shop Online
Here at Merchant Maverick, our behind-the-scenes research reveals a huge uptick of businesses finding ways to sell and fulfill orders online that have never done so before. While we are keeping up with the demand and offering more how-tos and other Covid-19 resources, we encourage you as the patron to check your local shop online and see what’s changed. You may now be able to place a to-go order online, shop supplies, health and wellness, toys, and books while supporting small businesses right from your home. Restrictions may last for months, and shopping can be a good self-isolating pastime that’s supporting the long-term health of your community.
4. Buy Gift Cards & Certificates
Now more than ever is a fantastic time to buy gift cards or pre-order from local businesses. Not only can you give them much needed cashflow during this time, but you can also get some holiday shopping done ahead of time! Buying a gift card for a neighbor or friend who is struggling with reduced hours at work or is temporarily out of work is also an apropos way to spread kindness and show support.
5. Follow Your Local Stores On Social Media
Following your local shops on social media platforms will keep you up-to-date with changes, and you’ll be showing your support to local business owners when they need it most. Social media is often the cheapest and easiest way a business communicates things like promotions, so it makes sense to follow and like things you see to show your support and take advantage of any promotions yourself, too!
6. Buy To Give
It’s been wonderful to see how many helpful people offer to pick up supplies for others during this time. If you put in a delivery or pick-up order or even brave the outdoors yourself, order a bit extra for someone who you know could benefit. Whether that’s buying for someone who has pre-existing conditions or an elderly neighbor or ordering supplies to be dropped off to your local shelter, we can all do something during this time to support those in our community who need it.
7. Get Gas From Local Stations
With the only things to do being in our house, more people are taking a drive just because. Supporting your locally-owned gas station is another great way to boost up your local economy. And of course, many people still have to commute and work during this time, so being mindful about where you fill up your tank can make a huge difference.
8. Pay It Forward
We are probably all familiar with the term pay it forward, but in times like these, it’s understandably hard for some to get out of the fear-based mindset. Paying it forward can be a wonderful way to train your mind to think outside yourself and your current situation. You’ll feel your anxiety and your spirits lift, without receiving anything in return. Pay-it-forward moments are here, we just have to look for them. Whether that means you have a membership that you can’t use but still pay for, you purchase something you wouldn’t have normally, or you send extra to a local shelter or non-profit business, these opportunities are what elevate our communities and our spirits.
9. Tip More Than Usual
For those who don’t work from home âwhether that’s delivery drivers, shoppers who bring your groceries curbside, or the staff at the pick-up window at your favorite restaurant â these folks are keeping it going for the rest of us. Tip more than usual — even in situations you may not have before. You might be adding the cash needed to re-stock food to a family’s dwindling pantry, or at the very least, showing someone you appreciate them. And we need more of that now more than ever.
10. Don’t Forget Your Local Businesses When COVID-19 Is Over
When all of this is over (yes, it will be!) remember to keep supporting your local business. They will likely have been hit pretty hard, and while there is some COVID-19 small business relief available in the form ofÂ SBA disaster loans, it will likely take extra support from all of us to help them recover. So keep small businesses in mind when restrictions finally lift and you’ve got a hankering to do some shopping.
Stay Loyal To Local: Small Businesses Will Thank You
When you support a small business, you are not only supporting a creative endeavor, you’re supporting your neighbors, too! According to the Small Business Administration, small companies create 1.5 million jobs and account for 64% of new jobs. Small businesses really do make our communities a better place to live in, so let’s show them some support to sustain these friends during tough times.
We have a growing library of resources available for businesses navigating through the ever-changing restrictions of COVID-19. Check out our Coronovirus Guides & Resources page for the support you need. Are you supporting your local business in a different way we didn’t mention? Let’s hear it! Are you a small business owner with questions related to COVID-19 transitions? Leave us a comment or question below, and we’d love to help all we can!
The post How You Can Help Small Business Stay Afloat During The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
For many crafters and makers, Etsy has been a life-changer. This marketplace dedicated to independent artists has opened up the door for many to turn their hobbies into careers. Etsy has enabled artists to start selling their wares online by eliminating many of the difficulties involved with running an online store. Sellers don’t need to worry about building a website, attracting web traffic, or calculating shipping expenses and taxes. Etsy is an easy way to sell, and it has gained incredible popularity for it. With 1.8 million sellers currently on the platform, it’s clear that Etsy is a major player in the eCommerce space.
That said, Etsy also has a few downsides. Perhaps the biggest complaint among sellers regards Etsy’s fee structure. Etsy charges a variety of fees from listing fees to transaction fees and payment processing fees, and it can be difficult to keep things straight (and to calculate how much you’ll owe Etsy for each sale). What’s more, Etsy has been known to increase these fees or add new ones, leaving many sellers wanting a way out. Most recently, Etsy has unveiled a new Offsite Ad service that comes with its own fees, and which is mandatory for some sellers.
In this article, we’ll break down Etsy’s pricing and fees. We’ll explain how you can know if Etsy is worth the cost, and then we’ll give a few strategies for succeeding in the Etsy marketplace. And if you ultimately decide that Etsy isn’t the right choice for your business, we have a few suggestions of alternatives you can turn to.
Let’s get into it!
Etsy’s Pricing Plans
Etsy offers users two subscription options for seller accounts: the free Standard Plan and the for-purchase Plus Plan. Take a look below to find out what each plan offers.
Etsy’s Standard Plan is their free seller account, complete with all the basic tools that Etsy offered before the Plus Plan was created. The Standard Plan allows users to list products on Etsy, buy and print discounted postage, and market their products with sales and coupons. The Standard Plan also gives you access to the Sell on the Etsy App.
The Plus Plan is available at $10/month, and it includes all of the basic features of the Standard Plan, plus a bit more. The Plus Plan includes some additional features, such as advanced shop customization options (banner options, new layouts of featured listings, and more) and restock requests for sold out items.
The Plus Plan also offers credits and discounts on additional Etsy services. Here’s a quick list:
15 listing credits monthly (the equivalent of $3 in listings)
$5 USD in Etsy Ads credits monthly
Free .store domains
50% off select domain extensions: .com .net and .ca
Discounts on custom web address
Discounts on custom packaging and promotional materials
The 7 Types Of Etsy Fees All Businesses Need To Know
In addition to the monthly subscription listed above, Etsy sellers must juggle a variety of other fees charged by the platform. Etsy has a rather complicated fee structure, and it’s worth taking a look at their legal terms and policies to really get a grasp on all the nitty-gritty elements of how taxes may or may not apply to fees in your region. For more digestible information on Etsy’s many different fees, take a look below.
Etsy charges a $0.20 listing fee for each item you put up to sell on their platform.
This fee truly applies to each product you sell. For example, let’s say you have 10 identical ceramic bowls, which you are selling individually. You can list all of these identical bowls under the same product page, but after each one sells, you much pay another $0.20 to renew the listing. If you sell all of these bowls, you pay a total of $2.00 in listing fees.
If, however, you sold a pack of ten bowls as one product, you would only pay one $0.20 listing fee.
Listings expire after four months, when you’ll have to pay the listing fee again to renew.
Etsy’s transaction fee (not to be confused with their payment processing fee) is a fee that Etsy charges to cover the cost of using their platform. Etsy’s transaction fee is 5% of the price you charge your customers, including the cost of shipping, product customization, and gift wrapping.
For sellers in the US and Canada, Etsy does not charge transaction fees on sales tax (unless you include the cost of sales tax in your listing price). However, for sellers outside of the US and Canada, these transaction fees might include the cost of some applicable taxes.
Payment Processing Fees
In order to accept online payments, all merchants must pay payment processing fees. Payment processors (such as PayPal and Square) typically offer their services at around 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Etsy Payments is Etsy’s own in-house payment processor, which sellers must use to accept payments if they are in one of the 36 eligible counties (including the US, UK, Australia, and Canada). If Etsy Payments is not available in your country, you can use PayPal to accept online payments.
Etsy Payments charges 3% + $0.25 per transaction.Â This allows you to accept payments by credit card, debit card, Etsy Gift Card, Etsy Credit, PayPal, some bank transfer services, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. You can also allow your customers to pay using their PayPal accounts. Etsy Payments rates will apply to these payments instead of PayPal rates.
In-Person Selling Fees
Etsy has partnered with Square to offer sellers an option for in-person selling. In order to accept in-person payments, you’ll need a Square card reader (take a look at our review of Square for more information). When you accept payments in person for items that you have listed on your Etsy site, you’ll pay the usual listing fees as well as Square’s payment processing fees (2.6% + $0.10). You will not pay the 5% Etsy transaction fee.
If you’re looking to build a more personalized website to sell your products, Etsy has an option worth trying. It’s called Pattern, and it’s website building software that allows you to develop your own store that is still connected to your Etsy seller account. Pattern is available for $15/month.
Listing fees also apply to Pattern, although there is a bit of additional complexity. If you list a product only on Pattern and not on Etsy, you must pay a listing fee. If you already had a product listed on Etsy, and you want to also list it on Pattern, you do not need to pay an additional listing fee (you have already paid one to Etsy). What’s more, Pattern listings do not expire.
Currency Conversion Fees
Etsy recommends that sellers list their pricing in the same currency as their payment account currency. This will allow sellers to avoid foreign exchange charges. Customers are able to select the currency in which they view listings, so listing your products in one particular currency shouldn’t impact your sales at all. However, if you do not do this, and you list your products in a different currency than your payment account, you will be charged a 2.5% currency conversion fee.
Over the past few years, Etsy has rolled out some marketing tools for users. These include on-site and off-site ads, which of course come with their own fees.
Etsy Ad Fees
Etsy allows sellers the option of marketing their products within the marketplace via Etsy Ads. These ads are available on pay-per-click pricing, and the cost of each click will vary depending on demand. You can set a budget that limits the amount you’re willing to pay for on-site ads daily, and Etsy will only list your ads until you reach that daily maximum.
Offsite Ads Fees
Etsy’s Offsite Ads are the newest development in Etsy’s advertising. All users are currently being set up to use Offsite Ads, with the option to opt-out available to sellers who have made less than $10,000 in sales in the last year.
With the new Offsite Ads program, Etsy will market your products on major sites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing. When someone clicks an ad that includes one of your products and then purchases one of your products within 30 days, you are charged an advertising fee on that order. This fee is either 12% or 15% depending on your annual sales. For those who make under $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads is an optional service, and the rate is 15%. However, for those who made over $10,000 in sales in the last year, Offsite Ads are mandatory. Etsy charges these sellers a rate of 12% on purchases made from the ads.
What Real Users Have To Say About Etsy Seller Fees
Etsy sellers have mixed opinions regarding fees. Some sellers say that Etsy is the most affordable option for their business while others say that Etsy’s increasing fees are forcing them to leave the platform. Take a look below at a couple of comments I found on Etsy’s community forum from 2019. I think both of these quotes encompass user sentiment:
“I think Etsy’s fees have got ridiculous. I am getting charged nearly 13% (incl VAT). This is not viable for me, I will either have to close my shop or put up my prices. Etsy used to be a viable platform for crafts people, designers and sole traders but their fees are too high and too complicated. I have complained.”
“It’s still much cheaper than eBay, where it’s 10% on sale price and shipping. I think the new billing system did us all a favor by making us much more aware of what our profit margins actually are, and forcing us to take a hard look at our business model. My big revelation was that I seriously need to eliminate ALL the low priced items – a $3 item that sites for 2 years before it sells is actually losing money. Planning to flea market half my inventory when the weather warms up.”
More recently, Etsy has caused a stir with its announcement about mandatory Offsite Ads for some sellers. There are a couple of comments from the community forum in March 2020 that represent the conversation currently underway about this new policy:
“This may be exciting for those who WANT to advertise, but for those of us who do not want to advertise, this is a strong-arm technique. We deserve the right to opt out.”
“…I am capable of working out my own costs and I have. And that INCLUDES advertising. Time will tell but for my shop I think these adverts will increase my profits. Everyone screamed about the current adds, but guess what? Yep, they worked really well for my shop. Business is booming, each month I am up. The only thing I do disagree with is the fact that for successful sellers, its mandatory. That isn’t fair.”
Is Etsy Worth The Cost For Your Business?
So, is Etsy worth the expense for your business? That depends on a few factors: your profit margins, and the value you derive from the marketplace.
In order to really use Etsy to your advantage, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your profit margins. If you aren’t careful, Etsy fees can easily eat into your profits, causing you to actually lose money on a sale. Here’s a reminder of Etsy’s fees:
Transaction fee: 5% of total
Payment processing fee: 3% + $0.25
Listing fee: $0.20 of total
Total Fees: 8% +$0.45
So, let’s imagine that one of the products you sell costs you $5 to make, and you sell it on your platform for $15 with “free shipping.” Here’s a breakdown of what associated fees would be.
Shipping costs (estimate): $5.00
5% transaction fee: $0.75
3% + $0.25 payment processing fee: $0.70
Listing fee: $0.20
Total expenses (including shipping): $6.65
When we subtract the cost of making the product and the expenses related to fees, we end up with a $3.35 profit margin. In this example, you’d likely need to raise your pricing in order to increase your profit margins and better account for the cost of offering free shipping.
Another factor you’ll want to keep in mind is the value your business derives from the platform. What value does Etsy provide to your business? Is it the ease of being found by new customers? The ability to sell products online without having to maintain a website? This value, whether or not you can put a dollar sign in front of it, is a huge factor in your decision to use Etsy despite the fees.
How To Offset Etsy Seller Fees
As I mentioned above, in order to succeed on Etsy, you have to pay close attention to your bottom line. Here are a few ways you can make sure to stay on top of Etsy Seller Fees:
Increase Prices: The most obvious way to protect your profits is to increase product pricing. Often, sellers are worried that increasing the cost of their goods will make them less competitive. While this is sometimes the case, I have also seen Etsy users reporting that even after they increased their pricing, their sales did not experience any decrease. This could be because buyers often view higher-priced items as higher quality. Perhaps shifting your pricing will surprise you by having a positive impact on your brand.
Cut Costs: This is the next obvious step. Rethink the way you handle both production and shipping. Is there any way you can make your products faster or more affordably without significantly impacting quality? And when it comes to shipping, are you comparing options from multiple shipping carriers to make the best decisions possible? If there’s an area where you can lessen your expenses, do so. It’ll make a big difference.
Weigh The Pros & Cons Of Ads: If you have the ability to choose whether or not you use offsite ads, I would consider this very carefully. If you opt in, you’ll likely get a number of sales that you wouldn’t otherwise, but you will also need to leave space in your profit margins for the occasional 15% fee.
Don’t Keep Stale Listings:Â Because your listings renew every four months (for an additional $0.20 fee), you want to make sure that the products you list on your store move within four months. Don’t keep stale listings around. Over time, they may end up costing you more than the product is worth.
Get Help From The Community: The Etsy community is a strong bunch of sellers. Ask the Etsy community forum for ways they are handling Etsy’s fees, and to get more specific advice on your own store.
Tired Of The Fees & Ready To Switch?
While some merchants choose to navigate Etsy’s ever-shifting fees and guidelines, many sellers are tired of constantly adjusting their prices to reflect new fees. If you’re one of those sellers who is fed up with Etsy’s various fees, it might be time to try something different.
There are plenty of other ways to sell online, including opening your own online store or just trying out a different marketplace. For some advice on leaving Etsy, read our article 8 Signs You’re Ready To Leave Etsy (And How To Do It). And for a few suggestions on quality selling tools, check out our article on The Best Etsy Alternatives For Online Sellers.
So keep making great products, and keep an eye on your profit margins. Whether you choose to stick with Etsy or switch to something else, we wish you the best of luck.
The post The Real Cost Of Selling On Etsy: Etsy Fees, Pricing, & Offsite Ads Explained appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
In the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak, hairstylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, and salons in general are all in a really, really tough spot. Many state and city governments have mandated closures of these types of businesses. Some states that have ordered the closure of salon businesses include Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, and Nevada—and the list is sure to grow. Salons in some states are still open for the time being, but business has slowed to a trickle.
In this article, I’ll offer you some useful advice on how your salon can adapt and survive during this incredibly trying time.Â
Why The Beauty Industry Is Going To Be Hit Hard By Coronavirus
Given the current state of things with social distancing guidelines and mandatory closures of nonessential businesses, hair salons, makeup artists, barbershops, spas, and other similar businesses are all suffering. Salons, their employees, and independent contractors who rent space will all be affected.
Even if your business is still legally allowed to remain open, you might have to make the difficult decision to close temporarily due to the pandemic. Salon workers have a job that requires close physical contact with people, putting both the customer and the worker at risk. Worse still, many salon workers are contractors, who have to build their own business from the ground up and keep a book of clients—and many of these workers don’t have health insurance.
4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Protect Your Business
Here are some actionable steps you can take to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect clients and workers if your business is still open:
Relax Cancellation Policies
Obviously, many customers are going to be canceling right now, and for good reason. Although there’s no rule or law that says you need to waive cancelation fees or refund down payments right now, there’s a good chance that if you don’t, the customer will not return to your salon once the current crisis is over.
Revisit Sanitation & Hygiene
Make sure your business in compliance with the CDC’s sanitation and hygiene guidelines re: COVID-19 (see CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers). If you operate a medical spa that employs doctors and/or nurses, you should also follow the CDC Guidelines For Healthcare Professionals.
Revisit Attendance Policies For Employees
Now is the time to encourage sick employees or workers who may have been exposed to the virus to call in sick—with or without a doctor’s note. This may require you to relax your current attendance policy. Specifically, here’s what the CDC is recommending right now:
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4Â° F [38.0Â° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
Communicate With Clients
Remind customers to not come in if theyâre sick or have been exposed to someone who might be carrying the virus. You should also communicate with your clients about whether or not your location is still open, if your hours of operation have changed, and information about your sanitation policy. You can use email and social media for these communications.
6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Business Going In Hard Times
Here is a list of things you can do today to help keep your business afloat during this time of extreme uncertainty.
Analyze Cash Flow
Take a look at your bank account, your bills, and your income. How much money do you have, and how long will it last you? Can you survive a closure or reduced business? How long can you reasonably afford to close for? Interest rates are at rock bottom right now, so it could make sense to invest in a small business loan that will help you bridge the gap during this temporary lack of cash flow.
Add Gift Cards
Selling gift cards allows clients to buy services now and redeem them later. Some POS systems, including Square, Shopify, and Clover, allow you to sell digital gift cards, which makes things even easier during this time of social distancing. Depending on your setup, you may be able to sell gift cards on your website or on social media. Once you’re all set up, send a text or email to customers with a link to buy a digital gift card from you, perhaps at a discounted rate.
In addition to gift cards, an eCommerce website allows you to sell merchandise, such as beauty products, “home spa” kits, or anything else that relates to business. And again, you can use text or email marketing to advertise whatever it is you’re selling. If you don’t have an eCommerce-enabled website, you can look into options offered by your salon POS system or use a web builder such as Wix or Squarespace to set one up.
Look Into Business Interruption Insurance
If you have business interruption insurance, find out whether your insurance policy includes disruptions from communicable diseases. If you don’t have an insurance policy that would cover a closure related to COVID-19, find out if you can get one before it hits your area. It may be too late to get a policy to help you with COVID-related business losses, but it doesn’t hurt to check, or to protect your business for the next crisis.
Talk With Creditors
Stay in communication with your landlord, creditors, and vendors to whom you owe money or have contractual obligations. They may be willing to work with you and will appreciate that you’re making an effort rather than just dropping off. Some relief may be available to help you meet your obligations or pause some of your bills—for example, governments in some states and cities are prohibiting evictions and utility shut-offs.
Look Into Unemployment Benefits
Even if employees are not fully laid off and are on reduced hours, they might be able to claim for time off during the outbreak. Put together some resources to provide unemployment information for your employees. As a business owner, you should be able to file for unemployment if you were paid a normal salary that had unemployment taxes taken out. Self-employed individuals and independent contractors are not generally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but it is possible that states may expand unemployment benefits to these types of workers as the epidemic progresses.
Coronavirus Resources For Small Business
Here are some additional resources for beauty/wellness professionals and small businesses in general:
What SBA Disaster Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
The Fed Has Cut Interest Rates To A 12-Year Low: Hereâs What It Could Mean For Your Business
Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition
How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business: What You Need To Know & How To Get Started
Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus
Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments
If you need funds for your salon right now, I would head straight to the SBA’s disaster loan assistance hub, as the SBA has made disaster relief funds immediately available for businesses suffering economic injury due to COVID-19.
Being Proactive Is The Best Safeguard For Your Business
Now is the time to act. Even if your business is still doing okay, you need to get on top of this now and start making plans before the epidemic hits your area. If all you do today is send out emails to customers, you’re still taking action to keep your business going, even if your salon’s doors are temporarily closed.
For more advice, be sure to check out our complete collection of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources where you can find more helpful advice about coronavirus and small businesses. We’re adding to this information hub every day, so keep checking for more small business advice and updates.
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The COVID-19 (or coronavirus) pandemic has changed the world we live in. This global emergency is all that anyone’s talking about, whether you flip on your TV or log onto social media. One thing that has been circulating throughout the news in recent days is the term “social distancing.” For consumers, social distancing may be an inconvenience that ultimately helps slow the spread of the virus. For business owners, on the other hand, social distancing has a much bigger impact. With states putting restrictions in place and the majority of consumers opting to self-isolate, many businesses are shuttering their doors. It may feel like too much for you and other small business owners to handle.
It is a scary time for everyone. And while we don’t know what the future holds, there are a few things you can do starting now so that your business can adapt to and survive the coronavirus. In this post, we’re going to take a look at social distancing. We’ll talk about what it means, how it may affect your business, and how you can adapt and grow closer to your customers during this challenging time.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a strategy designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that events or gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the virus. If you do go out in public, it’s important to stay at least six feet away from other people, as one of the ways that the virus is spread is through close contact.
It’s also recommended to limit going out in public unless necessary, such as when buying groceries or receiving medical care. Travel bans are being put in place by countries around the world, and unnecessary travel should be canceled or rescheduled.
What Does Social Distancing Mean For Small Businesses?
Many businesses are also taking steps to protect their employees and customers, either by law or simply by choice. In states like Illinois and Ohio, all bars and restaurant dining rooms have been required to close. Other states may follow suit, while some businesses are choosing to close their doors before it’s even required. This includes retail stores, gyms, daycares, movie theaters, hotels, and casinos. Others aren’t completely shutting down but are closing public spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms and hotel conference rooms.
Unfortunately, social distancing means that most small businesses will see a downturn in their business. Reduced operating hours, closures, and fear and uncertainty among the public all equal a reduction in customers. The good news, though, is that there are ways that you can better connect with customers and continue to bring in revenue — strategies that we’ll discuss a little later.
With all that’s going on in the world today, there’s no better time than right now to evaluate your business policies for now and the future. For starters, take a look at your staffing policies. It’s a good time to inform employees that anyone that is sick should stay home to protect themselves and others. Not only does this apply to the coronavirus, but also to other contagious illnesses such as the flu.
Next, reevaluate your cleaning and sanitation policies. It’s likely that you already have some in place, but are you doing enough? In addition to your typical cleaning and disinfecting routine, consider cleaning more frequently. Many businesses are changing their hours so that employees have extra time to clean and sanitize surfaces before opening again the next day. Taking the time to clean and sanitize your business helps protect you, your employees, and your customers from the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Another thing to take a closer look at is your payment policy. Will this remain the same, or will you only accept payment cards? If you’re now taking orders online or by phone, do you have a way to do that securely? If not, it’s time to explore your options to make payments safe and convenient for customers. Learn how to get started by checking out Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments.
No matter what you choose to change within your business, there’s one thing that you must do: keep your customers in the loop. Send out emails, post signage (if your business is still open), or use social media to provide updates, such as new hours, online ordering options, and measures your business is taking to protect customers.
4 Ways You Can Adapt To Social Distancing & Keep Your Business Afloat
The coronavirus has already made its impact on the world, and there’s no predicting what will come next. Instead of sitting around and waiting, it’s time to take initiative and find new ways to serve your customers and keep the money flowing. You may have to get creative, but there are options that can help keep your business operating despite social distancing. And the best news? Many options don’t even require a huge financial investment!
Unsure of the next steps for your business? Consider adopting one (or more!) of these strategies:
Self-ordering kiosks & checkouts
Online ordering & carryout
Selling on social media
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these strategies to help you determine which is best for your business.
Adding Self-Serve Kiosks & Checkouts
If your business is a retail shop or quick-service restaurant, consider adding self-serve kiosks and checkouts. Implementing this technology into your business allows your customers to scan products they’re buying, place orders from your menu, and even pay for their purchases all through a kiosk or checkout terminal.
How does this benefit your business? There is less interaction with other people, so this strategy can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. If you’ve reduced your staff due to illness or expenses, self-serve kiosks and checkout terminals help ease the burden that falls on your remaining staff.
However, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. First, not every business will be able to use this tech in their business. Retail stores and quick-service or fast-food restaurants would benefit the most from the addition of self-serve kiosks and checkouts. And while these conveniences can lighten your load, you’ll also need to remember that your equipment must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly, and often.
Another drawback is the expense. Installing self-serve kiosks and terminals can get pretty expensive, and businesses that were struggling prior to the epidemic may want to look at more cost-effective options. However, it may be well worth the cost for a number of small businesses. Adding this technology to your business can help you better compete with your competitors — and in some cases, even give you a leg up. More businesses are moving to the latest point-of-sale (POS) systems and terminals, so now could be the time for your business to get set up.
If pricing still has you on the fence, know that there are options. Some POS providers provide financing, allowing you to make affordable payments over time. You can also write your equipment off come tax time.
If the concept of self-serve kiosks and checkouts is foreign to you, learn more about this technology and why it could be right for your business by checking out, A Basic Guide To Self-Service POS Systems.
Adding Online Ordering, Delivery, & Carryout
Many governments around the world are ordering the closure of restaurant dining rooms. Whether a closure is mandated in your area or you simply choose to close the dining room on your own, there are still ways to bring in revenue. Many restaurants are now offering online ordering, delivery, and carryout services.
If this sounds like a lot of work, in many cases, it’s hardly any work at all. In fact, you may already have everything you need to start serving your customers in new ways. Before you get started, determine what strategies will work best for your restaurant. For example, do you have an unused drive-thru window? Do you have servers and bussers that you could keep on staff to deliver orders or box up takeout options?
Now is a good time to get really creative, too. For instance, if you plan to shorten operating hours in the evenings, consider offering “take and bake” meals that customers can heat up at home for a quick and tasty dinner. Or you could take a load off of your fatigued customers by offering curbside pickup — they place an order, park their vehicles, and one of your staff members brings their order right to their car.
How do you get started in offering these new options to customers?Â It may be easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.
How To Accept Call-In Orders
Some customers may not have access to the internet or simply prefer to call in their orders. Call-in orders can be used for delivery, in-store pickup, or curbside carryout. There’s a good chance that your restaurant’s POS system already offers this feature. If you’re unsure of how to do this, contact your POS company to learn if this feature is available.
If your POS system doesn’t have this feature, it’s possible to do this manually. Have someone man the phones, take down orders and relay them to the kitchen, and ring up each customer.
How To Accept Online Orders
During the pandemic, many people will be at home placing restaurant orders online. The easiest way to offer online ordering is by seeing if your POS system integrates with third-party services such as GrubHub, Postmates, or DoorDash. Customers can easily place online orders for pickup or delivery, and you won’t have to add extra staff to handle your deliveries.
If you want to keep your employees busy, consider adding in-house delivery services. While this will require more work on your part, you can utilize current employees to take on this task. The benefits of this option are two-fold: you’re providing a needed service for customers while allowing your employees to continue to work and get a paycheck. Like the other strategies in this post, this is also one that you can maintain after restrictions have been lifted and life begins its return to normalcy.
If you’re in the restaurant industry, this time can be a challenge. Keep serving your customers and bringing in revenues by checking out our Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants.
Expanding To eCommerce
If you are a retailer, you’re in luck. Even if your doors remain closed during the pandemic, you can still provide your products to customers that shop online. If you’re new to eCommerce, making the switch can seem long, difficult, and expensive. But you’d be surprised at how easy this is for may retailers.
This option will be easiest for retailers with limited inventory. If you’re a larger business with a lot of inventory, setting up an online store isn’t impossible but may take extra time and effort.
While you can certainly set your web store online manually, first look into the capabilities of your POS system. Many systems already integrate with popular web store options and even offer automated features like importing inventory.
New to eCommerce? Learn how to get started in just five easy steps.
Selling On Social Media
If you’re unable to easily set up a web store or you have a large online following, you can put social media to work for your business by selling on selling on Facebook or using Instagram Shoppable Posts. The advantages of selling on social media are that it’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. This is a great option for any retailer that doesn’t want to set up a full eCommerce site but still wants to reach customers and bring in revenue.
The Best Ways To Stay Close To Your Customers (While Practicing Social Distancing)
Social distancing may mean that your business sees fewer customers. Even when the pandemic is over, it may take some time for business to return to normal. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop off the radar of your customers. Use these strategies to continue to connect with customers while practicing social distancing.
Use Social Media
Many people are stuck at home right now checking their social media. Why don’t you let your posts be among those that they see? Use your social media pages to keep customers updated on what’s happening with your business. Post updated store hours, closures, and any other changes to your regular operating schedule. You can also use social media to announce new services (such as your new online store or delivery services), post current and upcoming promotions, and keep your customers excited for what you have to offer during and after the pandemic.
Use Email Lists
Not everyone uses social media, so make sure to keep all customers updated that have signed up for your email list. If you don’t already have an email list set up, make sure to add a sign-up option on your website and social media pages. Just as you did on your social media pages, you can update customers on changes within your organization. You can also use your email lists to offer exclusive promos to subscribers.
Offer Gift Cards
Now is a fantastic time to offer gift cards that can be purchased now and used later. This is a great way for customers to plan future purchases or even provide a quick and simple gift for their loved ones. E-gift cards are easily purchased online and sent right to the customer — no plastic cards or in-store pickup required. Many POS systems, payment processors, and online stores integrate with gift cards, so check with your provider to learn more. You can also read our post How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business to learn how to get started.
Promote A Good Cause
While you want to remain top-of-mind for your customers, don’t just think about the hardships of your own business. Instead, spend time encouraging your community to give back in any way possible. Donations to food banks or local organizations and volunteering are just a few options that can bring the community together during these difficult times. You may even consider launching a fundraiser or directing customers to other fundraisers, events, and news in your area.
It’s a scary time for all of us out here, so try to remain positive and keep your customers in good spirits. There is enough negativity throughout the news and social media that can raise fears and anxiety. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening in the world around us, but instead, put out positive and encouraging messages. There’s no better time than right now to connect with your community and offer your support for your followers and customers.
Adapt Your Business To Social Distancing To Weather The Storm
People are dealing with a lot of fear and uncertainty worldwide, and business owners are no exception. Your health, the health of those around you, and maintaining your livelihood can easily overwhelm you. But just know that there are options available that will help keep your business afloat. While you may have to dedicate your time and may even need to consider a small investment, these efforts can boost sales and help your business come out on the other side. Good luck!
For more resources on surviving the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, check out our COVID-19 hub for small businesses.
The post Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The novel coronavirus global pandemic is quickly reshaping American life as we know it. As a small business owner, you’re no doubt concerned about how COVID-19 will affect your livelihood. Restaurant owners especially face challenges due to restrictions on gatherings of people, local quarantines and curfews, and just the general fearful atmosphere that has your most loyal patrons now fearful to leave their homes.
Nevertheless, people still have to eat.
While it’s hard to predict the future as things are changing so rapidly, it seems likely that many restaurants will remain open throughout this pandemic, if only in a limited capacity—i.e., for delivery and takeout. We’re here to help you weather out this storm so you can stay open, or at least stay in business, even if you must close your restaurant temporarily because of COVID-19.
Keep reading to learn how your restaurant business can adapt to new business conditions in the age of coronavirus, including resources on how you can save your business from closing and even continue serving customers during this crisis.
Whatâs Going To Happen To Restaurants As Coronavirus Spreads?
As more and more cities are affected and local governments declare emergencies, all businesses should be prepared for a downturn. This downturn will almost certainly be temporary, and it will be worse in certain regions than in others, as outbreaks are occurring in different regions at different times. However, it’s becoming pretty clear that no customer-facing business—retail, restaurant, health and beauty, service etc.—will be unaffected.
As a result of the worrying spread of COVID-19, many restaurants are temporarily shutting their doors, reducing their seating capacity, or restricting business to only take-out and delivery.
Will the government mandate a shutdown of all restaurants? Well, some state and city governments have already done this as of the time of writing this article, and more will likely follow suit. However, delivery and take-out are not included in those closure orders thus far, and some governors and mayors are only ordering restaurants to operate at half-capacity. Of course, it’s very possible that measures may become stricter in the coming days and weeks.
White House guidelines issued March 16 recommend against gatherings of only 10 or more people over the following 15 days, and that all restaurants close (dine-in service) in states with evidence of community transmission; however, at the time of writing, those announcements were just guidelines and not mandated orders.
Is Your Business Prepared For A Pandemic?
So, is your restaurant business ready to deal with the coronavirus pandemic? Have you actually ever thought about what to do if thereâs ever a large-scale crisis? It might seem like it’s too late, but you can still prepare for what changes might be ahead, including even future pandemics or national emergencies. While everyone’s hunkering down, the internet makes it possible to communicate with employees and customers, and even apply for and access emergency funds during this time of crisis.
5 Essential Things You Can Do To Prepare For A Community Health Crisis Or Other Disaster
As a restaurant owner, there are some basic things you can and should be doing from a business management/community health perspective. These actions apply not just to the current health crisis, but also to protecting your business from future crises.
Revisit Health & Safety Policies
This may seem kind of basic, but it’s nonetheless important. We’re talking handwashing techniques, proper sanitation, and when people should stay home from work. You can help protect your business, employees, and patrons by implementing some stricter health and safety policies, today.
To inform such policies, be sure to consult the official CDC guidelines for businesses regarding COVID-19 and all local ordinances and guidelines. You can also find some helpful information about maintaining worker health in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Toolkit for Coronavirus.
Revisit Employee Attendance Policies
Do you have an overly strict attendance policy? You’ll probably need to relax this policy — at least for the time being — so that people donât feel tempted to go into work when sick. Make it easy for your employees to make the right choice.
Again, be sure to consult all local laws and ordinances. For example, the city of San Diego has ordered that the city’s businesses can no longer require a doctor’s note when an employee is sick, as they don’t want doctors to be burdened by paperwork instead of helping sick patients.
Analyze Your Cash Flow
Cash flow is super important, now more than ever. Take a look at where things are right now and what you anticipate your cash flow will be over the next few months—including worst-case scenarios. How much do you have on hand? How much do you need to keep the lights on? When are your next bills due? Are you eligible for a cash-flow loan if you need one? Check your POS reports for changes. Your revenue may be down, but by how much? Donât just rely on âimpressionsâ or visual scans.
Here’s a good resource you can use right now to analyze your business’s cashflow: How To Calculate & Analyze Business Cash Flow
Check Your Business Insurance Policy
Familiarize yourself with your business insurance policy. What does it cover? How much does it cover? Here are some resources we have on business insurance:
Business Insurance For Florida Small Businesses
Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It
How To Get Business Insurance In 4 Easy Steps
Do I Need Business Insurance?
Own A Business? Here Are 7 Types Of Business Insurance You May Need
Monitor News & Policy Changes
While it’s not necessarily helpful to obsessively check the news all day for developments (though it can be hard not to right now), it’s important as a business owner to stay on top of all local, state, and national health policy changes that could affect your business. Find a reliable source of news for health updates specific to your city, and make sure your device is set up to receive alerts so you get all the relevant updates.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure you’re adhering to all current policies so that you don’t get shut down. For example, you’ll need to adhere to social distancing policies from the CDC which recommend that customers be seated at least 6 feet apartÂ and that dine-in seating is reduced to 50 or less. Depending on your state or city, there may be additional guidelines you must follow.
5 Strategies To Keep Business Going In A Tough Time
Okay, so weâve covered basic emergency preparedness. Now, what can you do to keep your restaurant going during a time of crisis? Here are some ways restaurants can cut costs and/or keep money flowing in.
Implement Takeout & Delivery
Offering takeout and delivery is important when people do not want to dine-in or you’re unable to offer dine-in service due to the current emergency policy in your area. As mentioned, some governments are mandating that restaurant dining rooms close or operate at half-capacity. You can offer a takeout and delivery option via an online restaurant ordering system that works with your restaurant’s website, or you can offer delivery via a third-party delivery service.
While third-party delivery services typically take a big cut of the sale—as much as 30 percent—during the crisis, food delivery services like Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Seamless are currently suspending their commission fees to independent restaurants. These services are also instituting “no contact” food delivery policies in adherence with social distancing recommendations.
Sell Gift Cards
People in our communities cherish their local businesses and want to help them out. After all, you want the businesses you love to frequent to still be around after the current crisis ends. If your restaurant offers gift cards, people can buy a gift card now (providing the money you so desperately need at the moment) and redeem it later once your regular operations resume.
Here’s an excellent resource that can help you set up gift cards for your small business if you haven’t already: How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business: What You Need To Know & How To Get Started
Adjust Your Menu & Hours
This is a time to trim the fat and focus on just the essentials. This is the time to update your menu and drop high-cost/low-profit items, and slow-moving items. Focus on what’s cheap, popular, and in-season. Further reading:Â 14 Ways To Create, Implement, & Maintain A Great Restaurant Menu
Many restaurants are adjusting their hours to save money and also to minimize risk. You might consider temporarily closing during your least-busy days or hours to save costs, or getting nixing your happy hour when people would be less likely to practice social distancing.
Communicate With Customers
Most businesses have an email list and/or a social media presence. Even if you’re not sure if you do, check your point of sale. POS systems like Square automatically collect customers’ email addresses and other contact info so you can reach out to them. Whether you are closing or staying open, be sure to contact your customers to let them know what precautions you are taking against coronavirus and any adjustments your business has made to your hours, sanitization policies, or anything else.
If your restaurant is closing temporarily, you may just want to reassure customers that you will reopen when it’s safe and perhaps encourage them to purchase a gift card in the meantime.
Advertise & Promote
If you’re still open, you need to let customers know, and entice them to buy food from you. For example, you can use social media, text marketing, and email to offer some specials for takeout. You may even want to use online advertising in the form of pay-per-click ads and (paid) social media ads on Facebook and Instagram. As far as what foods to offer for your promotions, you will especially want to focus on selling meals that are super cheap to make with high profit margins.
What To Do When A Temporary Slow-Down Becomes The Worst-Case Scenario
What are your options when things start going from âwe need to tighten our beltsâ to âhow long can we keep the lights on?”—or worse, when government orders force closure?
What measures are being taken now to help small businesses after the COVID-19 outbreak? Here are some steps governments are taking to help businesses affected by COVID-19:
The SBA has announced it will provide disaster relief loans up to $2 million for small businesses affected by COVID-19. Here is SBA’s news article about coronavirus SBA loans and its guidelines for businesses re: COVID-19.
The Fed has cut interest rates to zero to help businesses and consumers during coronavirus—This means your business could qualify for a very low-interest loan.
State and city governments have announced various measures to help small businesses during the crisis; for example, the city of San Jose, California voted to adopt a temporary 30-month moratorium on evictions for small businesses and residents of the city, which has been hard-hit by the virus.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying to cancel payroll taxes for April and May (this has not been made into law yet).
Some more things you can do:
Check Your Local Chamber Of Commerce to find out about coronavirus disaster relief programs for small businesses in your state and city, such as eviction moratoriums, payroll and sales tax relief programs, low-interest loans, etc.
Communicate With Your Creditors and also with your vendors, your landlord, etc. Everyone is hurting right now and they will likely be willing to work with you, especially if you can negotiate arrangements for when things pick up. Some credit card issuers are even offering special relief programs. It’s better to be proactive than to get behind and then ask for help.
Check Your Business Interruption Insurance PolicyÂ if you have one. Your policy must include communicable disease coverage for it to cover coronavirus-related losses.
Here is more coronavirus-related information and resources for restaurants compiled by the National Restaurant Association: Coronavirus Information & Resources.
Being Proactive Is The Best Way To Protect Your Business (& Your Customers)
Why is it so important for businesses to get ahead instead of just waiting this crisis out? Well, even if you have to close or drastically reduce your operations, you still have the ability to take actions that can lessen the impact of coronavirus on your restaurant. You can:
Promote your takeout and delivery services
Communicate with your customers
Sell gift cards
Apply for disaster-relief financing
Negotiate with your creditors
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Also, state and local governments are very motivated to reduce the impact of this crisis and small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. Seek out the resources for small business help because they do exist.
Read our Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition for more actionable information for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Credit card companies across the board have been stepping up their rewards game recently, but one program has consistently come out near the top. That program is — as you can probably guess by the title of this article — Chase Ultimate Rewards.
With a plethora of redemption options — and bonus rates for travel redemption — Chase Ultimate Rewards makes a great case for being one of (if not the) best rewards program on the market. Most business users shouldn’t have difficulty utilizing the points they earn with one of Chase’s credit cards.
So how does Chase Ultimate Rewards work? We’ll take a peek into the nitty-gritty below, so read on through to find out!
Chase Ultimate Rewards Basics
There’s not really too much to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It’s basically just Chase’s way of marketing credit card rewards. The program enables card users to earn reward points with purchases and then redeem those points for a variety of options. Note that even Chase’s cash back cards earn points usable through Chase Ultimate Rewards — these types of cards are merely marketed as “cash back” earners.
By signing up for a credit card that’s a part of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll be able to access a slew of ways to redeem the points you earn with your card. From travel to cash back to Amazon purchases, there should certainly be a redemption method to suit your fancy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards has been around for over a decade — the New York City-based bank launched the program way back in 2009. Originally kicked off with just two credit cards, Chase Ultimate Rewards now basically touches the entire stable of Chase’s first-party cards.
What Is The Point Value For A Chase Ultimate Reward Point?
The exact point value for points obtained within the Chase Ultimate Rewards program will vary on how you redeem them. However, the general value will range from 1 to 1.5 cents per point.
Let’s take a deeper look at what you can earn through Chase Ultimate Rewards based on the redemption method:
Travel: Depending on the credit card you have, your points value can equal anywhere from 1 cent to 1.5 cents on travel redemption.
Gift cards: Gift cards picked up through Chase Ultimate Rewards usually earn 1 cent per point. In some cases, however, you may be able to collect gift cards at a slightly better rate.
Cash Back: When you redeem your points as cash back in the form of direct deposit or statement credit, you’ll receive 1 cent per point.
Experiences: Should you book an experience through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the marketed cash value normally equals 1 cent per point. Note, however, that Chase sets the value for these experiences, so the true value of booking experiences with points may be difficult to calculate.
Apple Purchases: Buying Apple products through Chase Ultimate Rewards will net you 1 cent per point.
Amazon Purchases: Using your Chase Ultimate Rewards points at checkout on Amazon.com will earn a fairly unimpressive 0.8 cents per point.
Additionally, if you transfer your points to a travel partner outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may be able to redeem points for multiple cents per point.
Is Chase Ultimate Rewards Different For Businesses?
While Chase credit cards marketed towards businesses may earn points at different rates than their consumer counterparts, Chase Ultimate Rewards itself doesn’t really function differently for businesses. You’ll still be able to use the points you picked up with a business credit card for travel, gift cards, cash back, and retail purchases. Transfer of points to partner programs outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards is also possible for business users.
Instead, the primary difference is how fast you collect points and on what purchase categories earn you those bonus points. For instance, the Ink Business Preferred credit card can snag 3 points per dollar spent on shipping purchases. That purchase category is unique to Chase business cards — it’s not possible to specifically earn bonus points by using a Chase consumer card for shipping purchases.
When looking at the benefits outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you may notice other differences between Chase’s consumer and business credit cards. This might include stuff like employee cards or cell phone protection — two benefits exclusive to cards within Chase’s business card stable. However, these differences come via the cards’ benefits packages and not from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Credit Cards Eligible For Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase has a number of first-party credit cards that dole out points for Chase Ultimate Rewards. To start down this journey, let’s look at Chase’s business-specific cards first.
Ink Business Unlimited
Chase’s unlimited cash back credit card for business use is the Ink Business Unlimited card. With an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, you’ll be earning rewards at a fine clip.
While the card is marketed as a “cash back” credit card, you technically earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spent. Because of this, rewards earned with an Ink Business Unlimited card can be redeemed for the gamut of Chase Ultimate Rewards methods. This includes cash back, gift cards, and travel.
Beyond its base rewards scheme, Ink Business Unlimited features no annual fee and a slew of benefits aimed at businesses, such as free employee cards and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
For more information, read our review.
Ink Business Cash
The second cash back business credit card on offer from Chase is the Ink Business Cash card. You can collect 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases every account anniversary year. Plus there’s an additional 2% back on gas station and restaurant purchases (also with a $25,000 annual cap).
Just like Chase’s other cash back business card, Ink Business Cash technically gathers its cash back in the form of points. As such, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, gifts cards, travel, etc. through Chase Ultimate Rewards’s portal.
For benefits outside of rewards, Ink Business Cash has no annual fee, employee cards at no additional cost, and an auto rental damage collision waiver.
To take a deeper dive, check out the Merchant Maverick review.
Ink Business Preferred
Savvy business travelers may like Ink Business Preferred. That’s because this card dishes out 3 points per dollar spent on travel (as well as shipping, internet/cable/phone services, and select internet advertising). On top of that 3x bonus rate, points are worth 25% more when you book travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Besides travel, you can redeem points for Chase Ultimate Rewards’s other methods. However, booking for travel will likely be the most economical choice. There’s also the option to transfer points to one of Chase’s travel partners on a 1:1 basis — this may see you saving even more money than just cashing in for the 25% bonus rate.
Ink Business Preferred also has no foreign transaction fee, as well as cell phone protection and free employee cards. Note, however, that all these perks come at a cost — Chase requires a $95 annual fee to use the card.
If you’re curious to learn more, our in-depth review has you covered.
Beyond business credit cards, there are plenty of consumer cards that are eligible for Chase Ultimate Rewards. Even though you might be looking at a credit card for your business, a consumer card might work for you. Here are the first-party consumer credit cards that work with Chase Ultimate Rewards:
Freedom (5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter)
Freedom Unlimited (unlimited 1.5% cash back)
Sapphire Preferred (2X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 25% more when redeemed for travel)
Sapphire Reserve (3X points on travel and at restaurants; points worth 50% more when redeemed for travel)
Chase’s other, co-branded cards with hotels and airlines don’t use Chase Ultimate Rewards. To see the full list of Chase credit cards, check out our deep dive into Chase’s cards.
How To Earn Rewards
The simplest and most obvious way to earn rewards for Chase Ultimate Rewards is by spending money with your Chase credit card. Depending on the credit card you have, you can earn between 1 and 5 points for every dollar spent. Chase’s cash back cards will also earn points despite the “cash back” moniker.
Additionally, all of Chase’s Ink Business credit cards currently earn 5 points per dollar spent on Lyft rides. This limited-time partnership between Chase and Lyft runs through to March 2022. Chase’s array of first-party consumer credit cards can also take advantage of this partnership — the Sapphire Reserve card takes the cake here by earning a whopping 10x points on Lyft rides (the other three Chase consumer cards collect at the same 5 points per dollar rate as the business cards).
Beyond spending cash, there is at least one other way business users can earn rewards to redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you already have an Ink Business Unlimited or Preferred credit card, you can refer your card to up to five other businesses per year. You’ll collect the equivalent of $150 per referral sign-up if you have the Unlimited card (so up to $750 per year) or 20,000 points per referral if you have the Preferred card.
It’s worth noting that the referral program is also available for those with Chase’s Freedom, Freedom Unlimited, and Sapphire Preferred consumer cards. If you have one of these cards, each friend referred to the card will net you either $100 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 15,000 bonus points (with the Sapphire Preferred). You can earn up to $500 cash back (with the Freedom cards) or 75,000 points (with the Sapphire Preferred) annually with this method.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Redemption Options
There are plenty of ways to use your points on Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s take a deeper look below.
The most marketed way to utilize Chase Ultimate Rewards is by booking travel. Trip booking options include airfare, hotels, and car rentals.
Chase has partnered with travel booking site Expedia since 2018 to run the back-end of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s travel service. As such, you should generally see similar prices when comparing Chase Ultimate Rewards and Expedia.
If you have a cash back card through Chase, booking travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards offers the standard 1 point equaling 1 cent. Points cards are where things get interesting. Both Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred users will snag 25% more value out their points when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Chase’s premier consumer card, the Sapphire Reserve, garners a whopping 50% more value.
While booking travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards can be convenient and may save a bit of cash, a major drawback is the fact that you won’t be booking directly with airlines or hotels. This means that if something goes awry with your trip, you’ll need to contact Chase. Chase will then reach out to customer service on your behalf, potentially costing you time and giving you a headache.
If you’d like your points to go to something outside of travel, Chase provides the option to redeem points for gift cards. At the time of writing, Chase advertises that Ultimate Rewards offers “over 195 gift cards” from various brands.
Generally speaking, 1 point equals 1 cent when redeemed for a gift card. However, Chase will occasionally run “sales” on cards from specific brands. For instance, you might be able to get a Lowe’s gift card for 5% off or a Jiffy Lube one for 10% off.
Unless you are snagging a gift card during a sale, getting gift cards through Chase Ultimate Rewards may not be the most economical way to use your points.
The simplest Chase Ultimate Rewards method is to redeem your points for cash back. If you go this route, you have the option to deposit the cash directly into your bank account or receive statement credit. Cash back usually takes three days before being posted to your account.
No matter the Chase credit card, a single point is worth 1 cent. This means that Chase Ultimate Rewards’s cash back isn’t spectacular — however, it does allow you to use your rewards more freely than if you redeemed them for travel or gift cards.
Another redemption method Chase includes with its Ultimate Rewards program is “experiences.” Here you can use your points to book “experiences” from a selection of options, including fine dining, sports games, and music concerts.
During writing (in February — some of these events are seasonal), example experiences redeemable through Chase Ultimate Rewards included:
Ski lift tickets in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont
Tickets to professional sporting events, including basketball, hockey, and golf
High-class dining experiences
In general, these experiences were valued at 1 point equaling 1 cent. However, because Chase sets the “cash value” for each experience, it may be difficult to gauge the true value when redeeming points for experiences.
As far as total value, some packages are as cheap as 13,000 points for a Squaw Valley lift ticket. Others are vastly more expensive: two Saturday-Sunday tickets to the 2020 PGA Championship with access to Chase’s hospitality chalet and three nights at a hotel will run you a cool 265,000 points.
Note that because most available experiences are situated in large cities, you’ll want to live near a highly populated place or be traveling in one to take full advantage of this Chase Ultimate Rewards perk. Card members who live in rural Alaska, for example, may have difficulty finding a local experience to take advantage of.
If you like Apple products, Chase has partnered with the tech company to allow you to pay for all or part of an Apple purchase. To use your points this way, you’ll need to make your purchase through an Apple-branded online store accessed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
While this method does make it easier to buy the latest iPhone or AirPods, you won’t be saving anything extra here: 1 point is worth the standard 1 cent when redeemed for Apple products.
By far the measliest way to redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards is on Amazon purchases. After you link your Amazon account with your card, you’ll be all set to use your rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. However, keep in mind that points redeemed for Amazon purchases are only worth 0.8 cents. As such, we can’t really recommend redeeming points in this way.
If you want to maximize your Amazon rewards and you also want to sign up for a card through Chase, it may be worth going with the bank’s co-branded Amazon credit card. This card, which can earn up to 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, features a rewards scheme that allows you to use rewards at checkout on Amazon.com. Note, however, that rewards obtained through Chase’s Amazon card don’t earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
We’ll go into more depth below, but if one of Chase’s own redemption methods don’t suit your fancy, you can transfer your points out to one of 13 travel partners. These travel partners include both airline and hotel loyalty programs and can be one of the more lucrative ways to use your points.
Additionally, you can transfer points between multiple Chase accounts if you have several credit cards. Consolidating points can be a great way to save a bit extra cash when booking travel or if you’re planning to close a card.
Chase Transfer Partners & Best Ways To Transfer
With 13 different transfer partners, Chase has a nice array of loyalty programs where you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis. These partner programs include both airlines and hotels.
At the time of writing, Chase’s airline partners are:
Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways Executive Club
Flying Blue Air France/KLM
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For hotel loyalty programs, Chase is partnered with:
IHG Rewards Club
World of Hyatt
Because your Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to these loyalty programs on a 1:1 basis, the value of your points will vary depending on where you transfer your points to.
Determining the best loyalty programs to transfer to will often depend on your situation. Generally, however, World of Hyatt delivers the best bang for the buck when it comes to hotels — free nights start low as 5,000 points. For flights, check out British Airlines — its trans-Atlantic flights can be had for as little as 9,000 Avios (what British Airlines calls its points). Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program can also be a great deal if you snag a monthly promo.
The Best Ways To Use Chase Points
All told, if you have a rewards credit card from Chase, you’ll likely find that redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards points for travel (either through Chase’s own booking portal or by transferring out to a partner program) will stretch their value the furthest. This makes Chase’s point cards great options for businesses that require frequent voyages.
If you have one of Chase’s cash back cards, it’s hard to go wrong with redeeming points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Most methods output rewards at 1 cent per point value. This means that you can be flexible by redeeming your rewards just the way you want to.
This flexibility is probably one of Chase Ultimate Rewards’s strongest attributes and it helps make the program one of the best out there. Whether you are transferring points to one of Chase’s travel partners or redeeming points for the exact gift card you want, Chase gives you the freedom to choose — that’s pretty hard to beat.
The post Everything You Need To Know To Earn & Maximize Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points appeared first on Merchant Maverick.