COVID-19 Changed a Project, But That Turned Out To Be An Opportunity

A small business directory for Fountain Valley became a one-stop-shop resource for employers trying to find their way through COVID-19

Background

Fountain Valley’s Assistant City Manager takes elevating local businesses, so they thrive, generate revenue, and serve their customers. The Experience Fountain Valley, an economic development website, was developed to promote all business activities, land opportunities and serve a complete resource. Allegra Consulting was in the process of developing a searchable online business directory for Fountain Valley, a middle-class community of approximately 55,000 people in Orange County when the State of California issued its Shelter-in-Place order in response to COVID-19.

Challenge

How then do you recreate a business directory when businesses are either being deemed “essential” or “non-essential,” and for most businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in temporary closures? 

Process and Insights

COVID-19 required some fast-thinking, but the team at Allegra was able to turn the directory into a resource for Fountain Valley residents in which they could find out which businesses were open during Shelter-in-Place. Cold calls, as well as pounding the pavement and literally driving around the community to see who was open, led to the creation of a spreadsheet. The goal was to pull information from disparate sources and bring everything under one roof; this led to the recreation of the business directory website known as Experience Fountain Valley, a searchable tool with all the information about which businesses were open during COVID-19 in one place.

In addition to who’s open, Allegra added information from state and federal government resources, such as small business grants and the recently-passed federal stimulus package, Centers for Disease Control Prevention COVID-19 health information, and resources from nonprofits, such as information about unemployment, disabilities, and even listing grant information from the California Restaurant Association, because restaurants were so deeply affected by shutdowns. What began as Fountain Valley’s small business directory grew into a community portal.

Results

Experience Fountain Valley has proved to be such an invaluable resource during a very challenging time that the website directory may become a model for quickly pulling together other small business resources for other communities. Fountain Valley certainly isn’t alone; a recent report from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation stated that nearly 55 percent of the county was employed in industries such as manufacturing, entertainment, food services and hospitality sector that were at “high-risk due to COVID 19-related economic disruptions.” Moreover, the Small Business Development Center in Los Angeles has pulled together resources. It hosts a daily live webinar with Q&A answering small business owners questions on economic injury disaster loan and paycheck protection programs.

Lessons Learned

What Allegra has observed and learned is that the information is out there; it’s just a matter of sifting through, pulling resources together, and creating user-friendly, searchable tools communities can access to help them navigate these uncharted times.