How Start Small Think Big Is Helping Small Businesses Weather the COVID-19 Storm

Start Small Think Big (Start Small) is a nonprofit organization that helps under-resourced entrepreneurs create thriving businesses in underserved areas by providing entrepreneurs with access to a top-tier network of professional volunteers who provide legal, financial, and marketing services at no cost. The organization supports under-resourced entrepreneurs who are of color, women, members of disadvantaged groups, and low-income with business revenues under $1M.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic impact it has had upon businesses across industries, Start Small has adopted a much broader definition of eligibility to better support those that are most in need. 

Jennifer DaSilva, Founder and Executive Director of Start Small Think Big shared that for the organization “under-resourced is anyone who cannot afford or access the services we offer.”

Speaking about the organization’s response to the current pandemic, DaSilva mentioned that “the whole organization has really re-focused all of its efforts to respond to COVID in a number of ways. One of the main steps we’ve taken is expanding dramatically who we are serving.”

Prior to the pandemic, Start Small was supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in New York and California. However, because the organization transitioned all of its client programming to a virtual format, it was able to expand its offerings beyond its core geography. This allowed Start Small to expand nationally. 

“We have launched two major new programs since March. One is the COVID pro bono collaborative project, an emergency response to help small businesses survive the economic impacts of COVID. This collaborative provides remote clinics and one-on-one sessions on the COVID stimulus package and similar programs as well as COVID-related legal, financial, and marketing issues. Emergency services are available to any business that has been impacted by COVID; there are no eligibility requirements, which means that businesses can be immediately matched with one of Start Small’s expert volunteers as soon as they send an application.

“The second major initiative is our Emergency Relief fund. To date, through funds raised specifically for this effort, we have made grants totaling $400K to 54 small businesses. The Emergency Relief Fund provides immediate cash relief to active clients to meet a variety of business and/or personal needs, including for basic necessities and living expenses. We target businesses owned by people of color and/or women who do not qualify or are otherwise unable to access other city, state, federal relief funds currently being made available.” 

Businesses owned by women or people of color have been the hardest hit during the pandemic, according to DaSilva. Over one third of the businesses that are part of Start Small have shut down at least temporarily, 80% have seen sales either stop or significantly decline, and 70% have reported that if sales continue at current levels, they will be forced to close within the next 3 months. 

The work Start Small Think Big is doing is helping business owners better navigate and weather the COVID-19 storm. While last year the organization worked with over 1,300 businesses, this year it projects it will work with 3,500 to 4,000 businesses. “We are seeing an exponential increase in the number of businesses that are in need of critical support.”

Start Small Think Big also recently partnered with Citibank and Mastercard on their national #AllForSmall campaign, which featured some of Start Small’s clients and encouraged consumers nationwide to shop locally. This partnership also included a $1M donation to Start Small to support their COVID relief efforts. 

Start Small Think Big  joined the All Good Work program in the Fall of 2019 and began their residency at Regus in North San Jose in March 2020.