The one-two punch of the pandemic and its resulting economic fallout has been difficult for many small businesses, especially those in marginalized communities.
In a recent conversation, Leslie Pearce, senior vice president of inside sales for Fiserv, discussed the issues facing merchants disproportionally affected by recent challenges and how organizations are stepping in to help.
Pearce champions the Back2Business program for Fiserv, which works to optimize outcomes for minority-owned small businesses through financial support, business expertise, technology solutions, strategic partnerships and community engagement.
"The pandemic was a total disruption to many merchants' business models," Pearce said. "Help from Back2Business may have been the difference in avoiding eviction, keeping payroll or making investments, such as food trucks and freezers, as businesses pivoted last year."
Financial institutions are asking how to achieve better minority participation and ensure products and services are accessible to everyone.
The program works closely with community partners, including financial institutions, to reach and serve businesses that are especially in need of grants and additional resources. While Fiserv is focused on providing money, products, services and expertise, community partners make key connections and manage the grant process.
The goal, Pearce said, is to establish long-term, targeted commitments that make a significant difference, adding some businesses may struggle with access to capital, launching an adequate website or accepting digital payments such as ApplePay.
Small-business owners may also encounter systemic issues in the financial industry. For example, businesses with existing banking relationships were more likely to obtain funds through the Paycheck Protection Program. Merchants that don't have lending relationships with a financial institution, file tax returns or have legitimate business licenses often can't participate in small-business programs and grants or secure traditional financing, Pearce said.
Banks and credit unions are working to bridge gaps in minority participation and build trust where it may be lacking. Just one bad experience may make people distrust the entire banking industry, she said. To change those perceptions, financial institutions are asking how to achieve better minority participation and ensure products and services are accessible to everyone.
Back2Business recipients received financial grants and Clover® point-of-sale solutions to help them manage payments, inventory, scheduling and other day-to-day needs. Financial literacy resources, including ongoing business training and coaching, are available to all merchants in the community who want to learn more.
"People don't know what they don't know," Pearce said. "You may make the best cupcake in the world, but there are other things you need to get good at to have a sustained business. We want to close those gaps so you can focus on making fantastic cupcakes."