The COVID-19 pandemic has forced small businesses to pivot and adapt to survive. A popular strategy for brick-and-mortar businesses has been to shift online. But for some entrepreneurs, building the infrastructure to do so is another financial challenge on top of a growing pile of challenges.
The City of Detroit, in partnership with Rebrand Cities and Quicken Loans Community Fund, has launched the Digital Detroit Virtual Website Accelerator to help struggling small businesses get online. Applications opened Monday, April 27 and will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 30.
“Many small businesses do not have the budget to invest in branding and website development, especially during this time when it is uncertain if they will be able to cover payroll and common business expenses. We are doing everything in our power to fill in the gaps for them,” said Charity Dean, director of the Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Department at the City of Detroit, in a release.
Web designers will work with local business owners to build websites. In addition to a website, business owners will also get free hosting for three months, branding workshops and webinars, and virtual office hours/study halls.
In order to qualify, businesses must be located in the city and established before Dec. 31, 2019. Businesses must also demonstrate the need for support with website development.
Rebrand Cities is a civic initiative that aims to get 10,000 local businesses online. It has a presence in nine cities — Detroit; Chicago; Newark; Los Angeles; Mesa, Arizona; Miami; Boston; Memphis; and Port-au-Prince — and two countries — U.S and Haiti. In 2018, Rebrand Cities engaged 75 Detroit high schoolers in the AT&T Believe Detroit Technology challenge in which students built their own websites on WordPress.com, teaching them about the digital divide and encouraging them to make a difference in their communities.
Quicken Loans Community Fund has teamed up with the city of Detroit on this initiative as well as other COVID-19 response efforts for small businesses with programs like Feeding the Frontlines, which supports struggling restaurants and also sends meals to frontline workers.
“This investment will support Detroit-based businesses to both survive this pandemic and thrive in a world where virtual sales are increasingly important,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Quicken Loans Community Fund, in a release. “By building an online platform, our community can continue to support the brands we love, and Detroit’s entrepreneurs can showcase their product to the world.”