More than 30 local business owners came together for a Chatham Small Business Initiative zoom call looking to pull together resources and help support both home-based and storefront businesses in the Chathams. The call was organized by Stacey Ewald, a Chatham Township Committee member who saw the need to organize efforts to support business owners in the COVID-19 landscape.
“The community is very concerned about our local businesses and people want to help,” she said. "Our residents continue to amaze me. I was pleased that so many participated. They are volunteering their time and expertise to help. We will continue this initiative to connect resources with our local businesses in the hope we can help them get through this very difficult time.”
Tracy Ness, Deputy Mayor for Chatham Township and Chatham Borough Council President Jocelyn Matthieson also participated on the call.
The first part of the call focused on State and Federal assistance. Kellie Doucette, who is a District Director for Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Rana Shanawani, Executive Director of the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and Claire Anderson, Constituent Services Representative for John McKeon, spoke about financial relief available at the federal and state level.
“Congresswoman Sherrill has been talking to small businesses in our community about the devastating impact of COVID-19 since the beginning of this crisis, and held a recent town hall focused on small businesses with more than 4,800 residents,” Doucette said. “The Congresswoman’s office is always here to answer questions, provide resources, and help constituents navigate federal programs like those at the Small Business Administration.”
Through her Chatham-based non-profit Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation (WCEC), Shanawani is offering to help small business owners with some of the complexities of seeking funding. WCEC works with the U.S. Small Business Association and is offering free webinars and business and financial counseling to help local businesses navigate funding sources. Those interested can request assistance through www.wcecnj.org.
In the Chathams, Michelle Lease, small business owner and Public Relations specialist and MJ Morgan, a social media marketer from Embel Consulting, have pulled their resources to create a public relations and marketing plan for the small business community in the Chathams. ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ a grassroots campaign to help shops and restaurants during the COVID19 Crisis.
“It is incredibly important that we all pull together and support our business community. Every little bit helps our restaurants and shops whether it’s buying a gift early, ordering take out or purchasing a gift certificate,” Lease said. “When a call to action is issued it’s so inspiring to see how our community can pull together in support.”
Lease and Morgan are donating their time and expertise at no cost to the businesses and working in tandem with the borough and township.
"Keepchathamthriving.com has restaurant, shops and services information and links to all their social media pages, making it easy to see what stores are offering from cozy clothing, menswear, birthday presents and special gift baskets to dinner specials and information on who is open and offering delivery and curbside pickup,” Lease said.
The site also features a news component which is a great source for those not on social media. The campaign also has a growing Facebook page dedicated to promoting Chatham. The marketing duo asks the community to share and follow the ‘Keep Chatham Thriving’ Facebook page which is frequently updated with videos and photos from the businesses. “Time is of the essence, it’s so critical that Chatham residents help spread the word.” Morgan stated.
MJ Morgan has reached out to all the restaurant owners in Chatham and compiled a complete list of which ones are open and what services they would offer. This has been a huge asset for the community to be able to support the local restaurants, deli’s and bakeries. Given face to face contact with their customers is now limited, she has volunteered to help set up their social media presence and improve their online presence.
“A digital presence is becoming more important. People are at home, and they are online more than ever. They are looking at ways to support their local businesses and seeking information in their community,” she said. “Now is the time to be communicating as much as possible about hours, changes in service, and the ways they are aiming to keep customers safe, with options like curbside pickup or no-contact delivery. This is certainly an unprecedented time where surviving and thriving is the main focus, but it’s also an opportunity to build out capabilities that will not only help businesses during the pandemic but also beyond it.”
The new site also has a resource page for businesses to find valuable information on government funding, free business resources and marketing tools.
“We are currently working with restaurants and businesses to get them set up to receive online gift cards to get a much needed influx of cash.” Lease said.
If you’re a Chatham business whether it is home-based or a storefront, please email email@example.com to be included on the site.
Small businesses are encouraged to reach out to their representatives, state or local, with their concerns or link up with the resources mentioned to increase their online presence.
“We will continue to reach out to our business community as there are many who want to help,” Ness said. “And I encourage residents to shop local, pick a night for take-out, send a friend a gift and help out our small business owners.”