Guest Blogger: Heather McWhorter, Regional Director of the Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC) of the Cameron School of Business (This post was original shared on WilmingtonBiz.com on November 1, 2018)
Hurricane Florence had a profound impact on our community, citizens, and small businesses. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of businesses do not re-open after a disaster, and for those that do, only 29% were still operating after two years. If your business was affected, there are both short-term and long-term steps to take.
The first steps to business recovery include:
- Contact your insurance carrier to file your claim. If you are leasing a business space, ensure that your lease owner has contacted their insurance carrier. Take pictures and video of the damage.
- Register with FEMA online at www.disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA mobile app or by phone at 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
- Contact an SBTDC business counselor near you by calling 800-228-8443 or submit an intake form at www.sbtdc.org/hurricaneflorence. Business counselors can meet with you in-person, by video, or phone to assess your business impacts, develop an overall recovery plan, and help you apply for Rapid Recovery bridge loans or SBA disaster loans if necessary. Loans can be an important tool in your recovery, but acquiring debt is not the answer for every business. Let an experienced counselor help you determine your best path forward.
- If needed, apply for a Rapid Recovery loan. Thread Capital, the NC Rural Center’s lending arm, offers Rapid Recovery loans up to $50,000. These short-term loans can be repaid using insurance proceeds or other disaster loan proceeds. 0% interest for six months, but then 1% per month after that. www.threadcap.org/florence.
- If needed, apply for an SBA disaster loan. SBA provides low interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses, and non-profits. SBTDC business counselors can assist you in preparing your loan package and help evaluate your ability to repay. Physical damage and economic injury loans of up to $2 million cover uninsured or underinsured losses. www.sba.gov
- Keep a cool head. You may hear rumors about grants for individuals or businesses. This is common after every disaster and often leads people to delay their own recovery plans. There are NO grants for individuals and businesses. There is only hard work, smart decisions, ingenuity, good advice from experienced professionals, and loan programs. Be proactive, be patient, and be persistent in pursuing your recovery. It’s a long road. Many city, state, and federal partners work closely to provide you with as much assistance as possible.
After initial steps are complete, strategies should be implemented for the long-term success of your business.
The second steps of business recovery include:
Was your disaster loan application denied? Explore options for addressing comments and re-submitting the application. Research other loan options.
Implement additional marketing strategies. After the hurricane, many business owners have seen a decrease in customers visiting their retail stores, a decrease in tourists visiting the region, or that they missed a key trade show necessary for the future sales. Develop and implement corrective marketing and advertising strategies to let customers know that you are open for business.
Check in with your Business Plan or Annual Plan. Are your key milestones on track? What corrective strategies need to be implemented?
Review your insurance policy. Review your policies with a professional to ensure that your business is covered from unexpected events. If you lease space, fully understand landlord vs. tenant responsibilities.
Obtain or expand your line of credit. For long-term success of your business a line-of-credit that is already in place can help your business to get through unexpected events and expenses such as a drop in sales that can result from a disaster.
SBTDC services are free and confidential and we have been serving NC businesses for over 34 years. The SBTDC has extensive experience helping NC businesses navigate the complex disaster recovery process. Visit www.sbtdc.org/hurricaneflorence or call 800-228-8443 to schedule your appointment with a business counselor.