A nonprofit will begin its focus on small businesses recovery Wednesday, Aug. 11. Seeding the efforts of Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions is a $115,000 grant from the United Way of Southwest Louisiana.
“A lot of people are doing casework for individuals,” said Denise Durel, president/CEO for United Way of Southwest Louisiana. “This was the first request we had from a company with plans to help small businesses, which as we know are the backbone of our community.”
Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions will help small businesses navigate a difficult system. Small business sole proprietors and nonprofit owners/founders/directors as well as their employees and family members can apply for this coordinated, gap-identifying assistance.
“Our mission is to provide comprehensive, collaborative support for business and workforce disaster recovery in Southwest Louisiana,” said Cathy Denison-Robert, PhD, MBA, executive director and co-founder.
The focus on small business is not the only thing that sets her company apart.
“We are helping businesses while we are healing people,” Denison-Robert said.
Her team plans to listen to stories, which are an important component to this organization’s work and necessary for “complete healing.”
“Everyone’s story is different,” Denison-Robert said.
After needs are assessed, applicants will be referred to the appropriate agencies for help without the duplication of services. Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions also offers some direct professional services for small businesses.
“We do the follow up,” Denison-Robert said. “So many times people are helping and the follow up is not being done. We will hold your hand throughout the process and once you’re referred out, we want to know what happened.”
Individuals seeking assistance from Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions might receive counseling, participate in support groups, receive business coaching, assistance from government agencies, or contact with faith-based ministries.
Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions is collaborating with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese and the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance.
The nonprofit got its start in 2013 after Denison-Robert learned, first hand, how difficult recovery is when both home and business is lost. Her small business was subcontracted to help with some of the 2014 disaster recovery grants for small businesses after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
She has seen the difficulty of helping parents or children recover after a disaster when livelihood is uncertain, the challenge of doing business transactions in a world shut down by COVID. “When the pandemic hit, so many businesses were closed and workers laid off, I knew someone needed to do something,” she said.
She resigned from her university job in Baton Rouge to come back to Southwest Louisiana. In April she received the United Way grant.
Durel said the mission of United Way of Southwest Louisiana continues to be to build strong, successful families and to strengthen the community. Lately that has meant taking on a disaster recovery focus.
“We know if we can give that business owner what they need to make him or her whole again and back to operating again, this will help our Alice population get back to work,” Durel said.
Alice refers to the asset limited, income restrained — most of which are employed by small businesses.
The grant monies come from a recent generous donation from MacKensie Scott, which was earmarked to help people get back to work.
“Sometimes we get so focused on the crisis, we forget to ask for help,” Denison-Robert said.
Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions is offering help and looking for help.
“If you know a business, nonprofit, worker or associated family member in need of disaster recovery assistance, send them our way,” Denison-Robert said. “If you provide free or low-cost assistance that might benefit our clients, we need you. We accept donations, grants and in-kind contributions.”
Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions will host its first community outreach event at 4 p.m. Aug. 11 at the United Way of Southwest Louisiana, 815 Ryan St. Community events are scheduled for Allen, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Beauregard parishes. For additional information, go to businessworkforcerecovery.com or call (337) 513-4133.