A workshop series for Detroiters taking place each week in May will look at the experiences that business owners have had during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The free Small Business Workshop virtual series is being hosted by The LEE Group and is held each year as part of National Small Business Month.
“Within the first three months of the pandemic, 17% of all small businesses either shut down permanently or partially,” said Mark S. Lee, president and CEO of the Detroit-based marketing consulting firm. “By contrast, 41% of all black businesses shut down partially or totally. So I think this year is critical because businesses are trying to figure out how to survive.”
The first workshop in the series will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday and will feature Jeffery Korzenik, an economist from Fifth Third Bank who will provide data about the Detroit business recovery process this year and next. Another session with Fifth Third Bank will cover what small business owners need during this time.
Panelists and businesses participating include Ray Waters of the Detroit Development Fund, Alexis Dishman of Michigan Women Forward and Regina Ann Campbell of Build Institute.
“I want people to understand Detroit’s economy,” said Lee. “We have a very fragile economy. I think people need to hear exactly how we’re going to recover from this. What do the numbers look like in Detroit, and from a business standpoint, how is that going to impact my business. I think that’s what the uniqueness of this year’s event is to give people that information so they can make the appropriate business decisions.”
Registration is open on Eventbrite for the workshops, which will take place each week. After Wednesday’s session, the next dates are May 12, May 19 and May 26. The presenting sponsor is Fifth Third Bank, and other sponsors and partners include the Detroit Development Fund, Comcast Business, Build Institute, Michigan Women Forward, Tanner Friedman and Detroit Public TV.
The theme of this year’s workshop is “Reemerging from the Abyss.” Lee said that he chose it because businesses are reemerging and starting to “see the light again.”
The workshops started seven years ago, Lee said, when he realized that small businesses were opening rapidly, but many were struggling to remain open. When the workshops takes place in person, Lee said about 120 people attend. But after going virtual last year, the event has generated over 200 attendees.
Lee said supporting small businesses should happen year-round and not only during designated days or months of shopping.
“It’s important to support them 365 days a year because if those businesses don’t make it, Detroit’s economy is going to take a hit,” Lee said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we do shop local all year long to ensure that these businesses have the opportunity to be successful. They are pillars in the community and they hire local people to work with them and for them.”