Supporting Small Businesses in a Crisis

Chamber steps up to reassure community

By Kathryn M. Miller ~ National Small Business Week has been postponed. The U.S. Small Business Administration event, originally scheduled for May 3–9, is an annual celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation. Never has there been a greater time for innovation in the small business community, nor a better time for recognition at all levels of our local small businesses.

There are more than 550,000 small businesses, (those with fewer than 500 employees) in Arizona, and it is estimated that these businesses employ one million workers, representing 44.5 percent of the state’s private workforce.

Studies show that when residents buy local, it makes a difference. But what happens when a crisis hits — and businesses are closed, or scramble to change their business model in an effort to meet demands or just stay afloat? At press time, Arizona is still under the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” Executive Order, which is set to expire April 30. Whether or not safety restrictions are lifted in May, the small business landscape has been forever altered, and the community is looking for help.

Representing nearly 400 businesses in the Carefree, Cave Creek, Phoenix and Scottsdale area, the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce is just one organization that is stepping up to provide resources for businesses that are experiencing the challenging impacts of COVID-19.

Patty Villeneuve, president and CEO of the Chamber, says that the main challenge that they are helping members overcome is the fear of the unknown.

“Once we truly understand we are all in this together we can breathe a small sigh of relief and buckle in to communicate what unique need one business has versus another.”

To help communicate with the community, the Chamber has created a comprehensive resource page that is easily found on the front page of its website (

“This information has been gathered from local Congressional delegates, Governor Ducey’s office, the Small Business Association, Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said Villeneuve. “The information includes where and how to access needed funding for our business community and resources for the employees of our business community.

“As a part of the resource page we also have a comprehensive list of businesses that are open for curbside, the phone number and a link to their website. We are listing all businesses, not just Chamber members. Even though we are a membership-based organization it is important that we offer as much help as we can to our entire community. We are truly, all in this together. We have also invited the community to share in webinars and conference calls so that they have an opportunity to hear directly from the people mentioned before.”

Villeneuve says that additional relief funds have become available for EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans for the business community, and that the Arizona Chamber Executives, which she is currently board chair of, approached the Governor for one-time funds to be included in the state budget to be delivered directly to Chambers across the state for things like low-cost and no-cost grants.

“I can assure you that every Chamber Executive within the state are lobbying every single day to state and federal officials for increased funding.”

Beyond the support that the Chamber is providing to community businesses, Villeneuve says that the community as a whole can help support the local businesses that it relies upon.

“Continue supporting the businesses that are open for curbside pickup, buying gift cards from all businesses (not just restaurants) that can be used later. When more businesses can re-open, the ones that rely on tips, consider tipping a little more than usual. This will mean a lot to these workers. Continue to support the food bank with donations of food, money or volunteer hours. They need your support now more than ever. Don’t forget our other nonprofits with donations of time and money. Their donor bases are significantly impacted also.

“Finally, be kind to one another. We are all in this together. Kindness will go a long way with reassuring people that everything will be OK.” |CST

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