In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, news outlets reported the FEMA statistic that 40% of small businesses never recover after a disaster. With 74% of small businesses closed after Hurricane Sandy, a 2015 Nationwide Insurance survey stated that 75% of small businesses still don’t have a disaster plan in place. For overwhelmed small business owners, the possibility of a natural disaster may be a low priority compared to keeping customers happy and the bills paid. When an unfortunate and unplanned disaster strikes, they have to be creative when putting their lives and their businesses back in order.
Savvy business owners who prepare in advance can usually mitigate potential damage to their business by being prepared and activating their business continuity plan.
Small Business Disaster Planning
With natural disasters, from hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, or wildfires, there is a potential loss of:
- Office premises including equipment, supplies, furniture, and more.
- Records, paper or digital, that are necessary to keep the business running.
- Any goods or supplies needed to sell goods or services to customers.
- Employees’ homes and the likelihood of their return to work.
- Suppliers or distributors who are unable to reach your place of business.
- Customers who may do business elsewhere if they are unable to reach your business.
Office equipment and the like can be replaced eventually, but company and accounting records cannot. The U.S. Small Business Administration has created a Record Keeping for Small Business Guide to assist with the necessary records, such as contracts, licenses, leases, personnel information, and accounting records, for rebuilding your business. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) also has a Small Business Preparedness website for disaster planning. Helpful tips include storing records in the cloud, creating a threat analysis, purchasing business insurance, and the development of a continuity plan to include communication with employees, vendors and suppliers. The goal is to get back online as soon as possible so the loss of customers is minimal.
Filling the gap
Many business owners are finding out that their business insurance will only cover so much, and there is a significant gap between what is paid out in claims and what is needed. So many are forced to think up creative solutions to getting their businesses back online by borrowing from friends, family and investors. Entrepreneurs familiar with innovative financing options of startup capital are beginning to turn to relying on crowdfunding when disasters occur.
Crowdfunding for Small Business Recovery
Crowdfunding is a familiar source of capital to entrepreneurs with new or growing businesses. Many entrepreneurs relied on sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds and a potential audience for their service or product. The 2017 University of Chicago Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report found that while equity-based crowdfunding decreased 7% last year, “Donation-based Crowdfunding grew by 60%, generating $224 million in 2016.” The same report noted that over the past 3 years, donation-based crowdfunding has increased by 40%.
This is good news to entrepreneurs who are also using crowdfunding to help raise funds after an unexpected natural disaster. Ashley Freeman, with Handy Ma’am home improvement services in Houston, TX, relied on Go Fund Me to help with her recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Ashley ran a campaign to replace tools and supplies that were damaged in the storm. Her goal was met but she’s still recovering, “Go Fund Me was a great head start to getting back to where I need to be,” says Ashley. “I’m so thankful for knowing so many people care as much as I do when other people are in need.”
Kiva, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for entrepreneurs in 80 countries, is another crowdfunding platform being used by those affected by the September 2017 hurricanes. Jonny Price, a senior director with Kiva U.S., is proud of the work they’re doing to support small businesses.
“At Kiva, our aspiration is to leverage the generosity of our 1.6 million global lenders to expand financial access for entrepreneurs deemed too risky or expensive to serve by conventional lenders. Supporting small businesses hit by natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria is one powerful and relevant example of how we hope to meet that aspiration. This loan to Matilsha in Puerto Rico was funded recently by 358 Kiva lenders. We hope that, through long-term reconstruction efforts, Kiva’s sustainable lending model can complement the heroic work of more donation-based first responders like the Red Cross.”
Recovery Doesn’t Have to be a Disaster
2017’s hurricanes and wildfires have unfortunately put business owners on task to prepare for a worst-case scenario. FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration have created online guides for helping small businesses recover, and will also help financially through low interest loans. While businesses and residents await their turn in securing financing for rebuilding, more entrepreneurs and business owners are turning to alternative sources of financing to get back to the business of serving customers.