Women owned businesses facing unique pressures during COVID-19 shutdowns
Local business resource centers discussed how small and women-owned businesses are being impacted by COVID-19 during a question and answer session hosted by U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.
Representatives from the Enterprise Center of Johnson County — Jeff Shackelford, president and chief executive officer, and Patty Markley, vice president of policy and strategic development — and the Kansas City Women’s Business Center — Sherry Turner, executive director, and Brande Stitt, program director — answered Davids’ questions about how to help these businesses during COVID-19. While small business owners struggle to maintain cash flow and secure basic grants and loans, Turner said the ability to help in terms of financial resources is limited.
“In the first 24 hours of announcing [the Kansas City relief fund] there was a request for $28 million, the fund was announced at $5 million,” Turner said. “Again, the demand is so much higher than what we really have the resources for. That is the reality, we don’t want to sugar coat that.”
The United Community Services of Johnson County’s recently released research on the economic experiences of Johnson County area women found the median earnings for full-time working women was $50,000 — almost $20,000 less than that of their male counterparts. Additionally, women with high school diplomas earned $3,000 less than men without high school diplomas, and women with graduate degrees earned nearly $20,000 less than men with bachelor’s degrees.
Turner said an important item that comes into play, for families in general but specifically for women, is childcare. Some business owners take on “survival jobs” to pay the bills during stay-at-home orders but this option may be less available for mothers whose childcare options have been impacted. This hurts women business owners who have to find childcare while also attempting to plan out what the next 60 to 90 days will look like for their business, she said.
As for advice for small and women-owned businesses, Shackelford said the Enterprise Center has a series of town hall meetings on what to do during COVID-19. His suggestions include cutting expenses, asking suppliers and landlords for payment deferments, and ensuring access to lines of credit if available.
Another critical key piece of advice: Establish banking relationships early on in one’s business, Stitt said. During the first round of small business loans, lenders were “giving sole preference to existing clients,” which caused the self employed and entrepreneurs to be shut out, she said.