Florida small businesses are resilient, even in face of hurdles presented by pandemic

Small business owners are nothing if not intrepid. They demonstrate their flexibility no matter what situation arises. Their resiliency has never been more apparent than in recent months as they encountered setbacks related to COVID-19.

To determine the specific challenges owners have and continue to face, the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, the state’s principal provider of small business assistance, recently partnered with the Florida Chamber Foundation and the University of West Florida Haas Center to survey nearly 5,000 business owners about the effects of the pandemic. The results were telling:

• More than 50% of businesses closed for some period of time
• Sadly, about 40% of businesses closed permanently
• 85% of businesses reported losing revenue
• 45% reported being concerned about operating in the future.

The Florida SBDC Network has worked diligently to help small businesses rebound and recover during these challenging times. Conducting all business virtually, the network, which has more than 40 regional offices from Pensacola to Key West, has and continues to help businesses secure disaster assistance, re-think business models and review operations to adjust to turbulent times. Since March, it has helped small businesses access more than $208.5 million in state and federal disaster assistance including the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program.

As the state deals with the ongoing ramifications of the coronavirus, the network will continue to help small businesses navigate challenges posed by the virus. To that end, it is planning future research regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s small businesses. It will include an analysis of business needs on a regional level, concentrating on those run by traditionally underserved populations such as minorities, women and people in rural communities.

Though the virus has caused many businesses to close their doors resulting in job losses, it has also created the impetus for those wanting to become entrepreneurs. According to recent census data, there has been a 26.16% increase in business applications between 2019 and 2020, as indicated by the number of Employer Identification Numbers issued. This increase in entrepreneurial endeavors is significant because since 2006, the average increase of EIN applications has been a mere 2.5%.

Due to the surge of Floridians pursuing entrepreneurship as an alternative career path, the Florida SBDC has experienced a 43.3% increase in consulting hours, representing a 129% increase in the number of businesses it serves.

Even as it continues to support emerging and established companies that are making adjustments to their business plans to thrive in the new normal, it also supports those with a burgeoning interest in starting their own businesses. The Florida SBDC has access to robust databases and knowledgeable experts and consultants who can successfully help navigate the hurdles that come with innovating, launching, growing, renewing and transitioning a business.

Some of the specific topics a Florida SBDC consultant can address include:

• Market research
• Market expansion and revenue growth
• Strategic plan development
• Access to capital and loan packaging assistance
• Financial analysis and assessment
• Accounting systems and financial literacy
• Feasibility analysis and start-up assistance.

Florida is a big small-business state. There are more than 2.7 million small businesses in Florida, and the number is growing every day. These businesses are powerhouses for job creation and employ nearly half of all private sector employees. They also create three-quarters of net new jobs.

Since 1976, the Florida SBDC Network has bolstered the statewide ecosystem to foster the success of more than 1.2 million entrepreneurs and innovators. It will continue to fulfill its mission of supporting small businesses and the intrepid owners who make them thrive.

To learn more about the Florida SBDC Network’s services, visit www.FloridaSBDC.org.

See the original article in the print publication

Cheryl Kirby


The interim CEO for the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, Florida’s largest and leading provider of assistance for small and medium-sized businesses. In this capacity, Kirby oversees the network’s more than 40 offices and 280 employees, executes the Florida SBDC’s strategy and ensures the network continues to exceed stakeholder expectations while contributing value to Florida’s bottom line.

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