COVID-19 Business Recovery
COVID-19 Business Resources
Going From Disaster to Growth
Going From Disaster to Growth
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic has wreaked havoc throughout the small business community in the region’s 18 cities and counties. Recovery from the tremendous damage that has been inflicted is a long-term process.

Executive Summary:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an incredible impact on the worldwide, national, state and local economy.  The effects of which will reverberate for years to come.  While the immediate recovery of as many of the region’s small businesses as possible, regional leaders have to realize that we will not, and should not, desire to return to status quo ante.

This paper outlines the goals, steps and tools needed to help take the region’s economy from Disaster to Growth.


The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic has wreaked havoc throughout the small business community in the region’s 18 cities and counties.  Recovery from the tremendous damage that has been inflicted is a long-term process.

The purpose of this plan is to provide:
  • A list of the needs that a small business owner will have in each of the various phases

  • A structural framework and sequential timeline of prospective actions

  • The tools and staffing requirements responsibilities and potential costs

  • The metrics to be measured and evaluated in order to move the region’s small businesses forward throughout the recovery process

The end state of our actions is the successful restoration of as many small businesses as possible and to transition them to operations in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.

This paper is for the region’s local elected officials, economic development directors and staffs, business leaders and local commercial lenders and financial institutions those organizations that provide managerial and technical assistance to the region’s small businesses.


Below are the initial assumptions on which this plan is based.  Not every business will be in the same phase of recovery or growth.  Prior to moving forward it will be necessary to identify those items which are “known-knowns”; “known-unknowns” and “unknown-unknowns”.  These assumptions will be periodically revisited, reconfirmed or replaced as necessary as the recovery process moves forward:


  • Regional Small Businesses in most industry clusters will be damaged

  • Cash flow will be an issue especially when SBA Disaster Loans have to be repaid

  • Bulk stores (Walmart, Costco, BJ and Sam’s) will thrive

  • Customers will be extremely price sensitive.  This will reduce profit margins

  • Demand for business specific counseling services will significantly increase

  • Federal, State and Local Tax revenues will decline precipitously.  Impact on government contracting unknown, but anticipate reductions.

  • Recovery will be a multi-year effort

  • Small business and the region’s recovery depend upon comprehensive debt options and expanding equity options

  • Small business recovery directly related to the overall recovery of the region.


  • The extent of damage to local small business is unknown

  • Supply chains questionable

  • Many existing owners will opt to close rather than reopen, especially older owners

  • Those business owners who survive will be risk adverse

  • High unemployment will cause customers to restrict spending to essentials only

  • Budget cuts will impact many programs

  • Non-profit donations and sponsorships will decline


  • Large/mid-sized retailers’ recovery status unknown.  Impact on region’s shopping malls

  • Movie theaters and small restaurants recovery status unknown.

  • Reluctance to re-establish face-to-face contact…social distancing is the new norm

The 3 Pillars of the Region’s Economy

  • Tourism: 

    • Known-Known:  Devastated.  This will take the longest to initially recover.  Impact on hotels, B&Bs, rentals, restaurants, attractions, transportation (cabs, tour buses, gig economy) childcare and early education industries.  Loss of sales and room taxes will reverberate through municipal economies.

    • Unknown-Unknown: The extent of the impact and the time it will take to bring tourists back to the region.

  • Port:

    • Known-Unknown:  Reduction in the number of ship calls, containers landed/loaded.  Impact on trucking companies, ships chandler companies and port workers.

  • Military/Government Procurement:

    • Known-Known:  Retirees and dependents will continue to receive their monthly benefits.   

    • Known-Unknown: Impact not really known at this time.  There is the potential for a reduction in ship repair both in the shipyards as well as downstream.  The impact of the virus on ship’s readiness is unknown.  Upcoming and potential deployment of ships and squadrons is unknown.

Funding Support:

Under the provision of the Stimulus-3 funding (CARES Act) the Virginia Small Business Development Center Network will receive a one-time infusion of no local match required, federal funding for the development of infrastructure to support recovery efforts.  The amount of funds the region will received is unknown at this time.  These funds have to be expended by 30 September 2021 however, there is the potential for a one-time, no-cost extension to 30 September 2022.  A caveat for receiving this funding is that any infrastructure or capacity increase has to be solely supported by local, non-federal funds.  This funding above will enable the Center to develop the tools and staffing to meet both the demands in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as those in reaching out to higher impact clients.

The ultimate goal is to be able to preserve both the current SBDC core services but also any new services post 9-2021.

Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads, Inc. (SBDC):

Established in 1990, the SDBC was the first economic development entity that was designed to serve the needs of existing and prospective small business owners throughout the 18 cities and counties of Hampton Roads.  It is part of a statewide organization of 29 offices throughout the Commonwealth which is headed by a state office at George Mason University.  Funding for the Center comes from the US Small Business Administration under a cooperative agreement.  This funding has to be matched with local non-federal funds and in-kind contributions on a 1:1 basis.

The Center provides managerial and technical assistance and training to its clients.  One of its goals is to engage more long-term clients (>5 hours of counseling) and provide more services to higher impact clients.  This will enable the region to grow at a higher rate.

Service Providers:

Currently, the Small Business Development Center of Hampton Roads has active partnerships with the following organizations:

  • US Small Business Administration

  • Virginia SBDC Network

  • Local Economic Development Departments

  • Chambers of Commerce (Hampton Roads, Eastern Shore, Franklin-Southampton County and Isle of Wight)

  • Regional Financial Institutions

  • Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance

  • 504 Capital

  • Regional Incubators and Co-working Spaces (1701, Gather, IncuHub)

  • William and Mary MBA Program (student volunteer counselors)

  • StartWheel

  • The organizations listed below will also be invited to participate, coordinate activities and information:

  • Local SCORE Chapters

  • ODU Innovation Center:  WBC, VBOC, PTAC

  • NSU Innovation Center

  • Hampton University

  • Other Chambers of Commerce (Peninusla, York County, Gloucester, Cape Charles and Chingoteague)

  • Other Organizations (Genedge/MEP)

  • Accounting Firms

  • Law Firms

  • Insurance Companies

  • Others as necessary

Strategic Direction:

At the outset, the Center’s direction will be focused on assisting those businesses that are either directly or indirectly related to the regions 3 economic pillars.  While these phases are listed sequentially, not every business will be in each phase.  There are those small businesses that are in either Phase 3 or Phase 4.  These business owners will have need for more sophisticated and in-depth managerial and technical assistance.  These needs will be addressed.

There are four key phases to this strategy:

Phase 1:  Survival/Initial Response.

The objective here is to help as many small businesses as possible to remain in business following the disaster.  Metrics include:

  • Number of information sessions conducted

  • Number of clients seen

  • Number of business owners who decide to close

  • Number of business owners who decide to remain open

  • Number of employees furloughed, fired, let go

  • Number of employees remaining on payroll (Jobs saved)

  • Number of EIDL, PPP and other loans and the total amount obtained (Capital)

Phase 2:  Recovery.

The objective in this stage is to equip small business owners with the information, capital and tools needed to restart their respective businesses following a prolonged shutdown period.  Metrics include:

  • Number of business owners counseled

  • Number of business owners who reopen businesses

  • Number of employees returning to work (Jobs created)

  • Number of employees who remained on payroll (Jobs saved)

  • Number and amount of any loans or direct investments (Capital)

  • Increase in the amount of sales (Cash)

Phase 3:  Sustainability.

Focus now shifts to a somewhat longer-term vision.  The objective in this stage is to equip small business owners with the information and tools necessary to ensure the ongoing operations of their businesses.  Metrics include:

  • Number of clients seen

  • Number of hours of counseling delivered

  • Number of long-term clients (>5 hours counseling delivered)

  • Number of training events (in person and online) conducted

  • Number of attendees

  • Number of information transfers

  • Number of new businesses started

  • Number of jobs created

  • Number of jobs retained

  • Number and amount of any loans or direct investment

  • Increase in the amount of sales

Phase 4:  Growth, Return to Status Quo Ante in some clusters.

The focus now shifts to an even longer timeframe.  Instead of days, weeks, months and a year, we are looking at 2-3 years out.  Business owners’ emphasis shifts from survival to growth/expansion.  Metrics in this phase are similar to those in Phase 3.

Needs Delineated by Phase:

Phase 1:

  • Access to Information:  The initial focus is to provide the small business owner with as much relevant information as possible.  The ideal manner to deliver this is through the local economic development departments.  The SBDC has been providing, on a daily basis, information which is passed along as necessary.  One on one counseling is minimized at this time in order to facilitate the outreach to as many small business owners as possible.

  • Access to Capital:  The primary source of capital is from the Federal Government through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.  This is a direct working capital loan from the Small Business Direct to the business owner.  The purpose is to provide the borrower with working capital needed to pay the businesses operation expenses and to remain in operation. Another source of capital is through a government-guaranteed loan made by local financial institutions.  The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) consists of loans which are used to keep employees on the payroll. 

Phase 2:

  • Access to information:  As stabilization occurs, small business owners will need even more information that is specifically tailored to meet their needs.   Rather than relying primarily on a “push” information architecture, the SBDC, and other service providers, will now operate in a “push-pull” information environment.  Small business owners will now be able to request specific information, training or data which they can use to make decisions about the direction their business should take.  One-on-one counseling with follow-up by the managerial and technical assistance providers is required.  Counselors will have to have both general business knowledge as well as knowledge of and access to specific industry information.

  • Access to Capital:  Small business owners will continue to have a need for access to capital.  The means by which they obtain this capital will change.  Dedicated Phase 1 sources (EIDL and PPP) will be replaced with loans from local financial institutions, micro-lending companies (ACCION), community development corporations (504 Capital) and others.  Additionally, cash flow has to be maximized through the aggressive management of inventory, accounts receivable and accounts payable.  This will require even more in-depth managerial and technical assistance.

Phases 3 and 4:

I have combined these two sections as the needs are very similar and only differ in the level of knowledge and sophistication needed.

  • Access to information: One-on-one counseling that addresses the business owner’s specific needs will be provided.  The level of expertise in these areas will be considerably higher as the information needs are greater.  In these two stages, outside technical experts may be brought in on a contractual basis.

  • Access to capital:  The debt financing aspect remains the same in both phases.  In Phase 4 there may be a need to bring in equity financing.  This is where entities such as, among others, 757 Angels may play a role in providing financing to enable the company to grow.  A small business owner will need and even greater level of knowledge in order to succeed in this arena.  Consequently, the level of counseling will increase both in level of knowledge as well as in time required.  

Proposed Services/Tools:

Managerial and Technical Assistance:

  • High Impact Client:

    • GrowthWheel process

    • One-on-one counseling by staff supplemented by local industry experts

  • Technology Growth Areas/Corridors:

    • GrowthWheel process

    • One-on-one counseling by staff supplemented by local industry experts

  • Other Growth Opportunities:

    • GrowthWheel process

    • One-on-one counseling by staff supplemented by local industry experts

  • Start-ups:

    • Expanded StartWheel website

    • SBDC websites

    • 1000 Four Program

Other Specialty Programs:

  • Day Care and Early Education

  • Government Contracting and Procurement

    • SEVA CI: Southeastern Virginia Contracting Institute

    • Cooperation with the state Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity

    • Small Town and Merchant Program

      • Retail Counseling and Training (?)

      • Restaurant Counseling and Training (?)

  • High Impact Events:

    • Leveraged with other organizations

    • National speakers or panels

    • Real Estate, Tourism, Retail, Hotels and Restaurants possible target audiences

  • Online Training and Counseling:

    • Expand 1000Four offering of small business videos

    • Conduct all counseling online using Zoom or another tool

      • Need to establish infrastructure/locations for clients to come if not from home (libraries, economic development departments, other places

      • Increase Social Media Presence


Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO
Bryan K. Stephens is President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.
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