A game changer for small businesses
Small business owners like Zhe Scott have received $1,000 grants, technical assistance, and business coaching from the Long Beach Economic Partnership’s Small Business Resiliency Microgrant Program with support from Wells Fargo.
After losing some clients at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhe Scott felt like the only one who believed in herself and her business. But when she received a $1,000 grant and financial education, she said it was a game changer and she was inspired to help other business owners succeed.
Scott is the founder and CEO of The SEO Queen, a boutique marketing company that provides website design, search engine optimization, and mobile app development for businesses. The company currently serves about 800 business owners, with services ranging from educational resources, signature programs, and one-on-one strategy sessions.
“My main client base are companies making between a quarter of a million to $10 million,” Scott said. “Because of their small business enterprises, they’re definitely more vulnerable to shifts in the market.”
After losing about $10,000 in business when the pandemic began, Scott decided to apply for the Long Beach Economic Partnership’s Small Business Resiliency Microgrant Program. “As a business owner, this is the first money invested in my company that didn’t come out of my blood, sweat, and tears, and this was over three years after I started my company, so I definitely felt validated,” Scott said. “I didn’t get paralyzed by fear when I lost that client. I just sprung more into action.”
“I didn’t get paralyzed by fear when I lost that client. I just sprung more into action.” — Zhe Scott, founder and CEO of The SEO Queen
‘Small businesses are really the engine of our economy’
The Long Beach Economic Partnership, which has a goal of attracting, growing, and supporting businesses, jobs, and economic opportunities throughout Long Beach, California, started the Small Business Resiliency Microgrant Program in 2020 after receiving a $100,000 donation from Wells Fargo. The nonprofit then worked with OmniWorks to coordinate engagement with local community-based organizations to identify and provide support for underserved small business owners who had received little or no government loans or assistance in response to the pandemic. The program provided $1,000 microgrants, technical assistance workshops, and one-on-one business coaching to 135 local business owners, including Scott.
“As we all were working through the first federal Paycheck Protection Program, we saw a lot of small businesses, particularly underrepresented ones, were not able to access those federal and other government programs,” said Randal Hernandez, chairman of the Long Beach Economic Partnership board. “I think a lot of these underrepresented small businesses do not either know of or have access to small business resources, so they’re harder to reach. We want to continue to be a conduit for them to access those resources. We also can’t say enough about Wells Fargo’s level of funding and Natasha Mata’s leadership in ensuring we could provide an immediate response. With the funding from Wells Fargo, we were able to quickly develop and launch the program to assist these small businesses in such great need.”
Ten Wells Fargo bankers based in Long Beach also hosted virtual technical assistance workshops over three months, featuring topics like creating a small business plan, credit coaching, small business lending, and other resources. Afterward, some of the business owners that received support visited the bankers in person to thank them and receive additional guidance and support, said Natasha Mata, Central Los Angeles region bank president and board member for Long Beach Economic Partnership.
“Small businesses are really the engine of our economy, so with this current environment and the pandemic, it’s important to come together to figure out how we can support them,” Mata said. “This is a big part of what we believe in across Wells Fargo, and we want to continue to provide that foundation for all of our small businesses so they can be successful.”
“Small businesses are really the engine of our economy, so with this current environment and the pandemic, it’s important to come together to figure out how we can support them. This is a big part of what we believe in across Wells Fargo, and we want to continue to provide that foundation for all of our small businesses so they can be successful.” — Natasha Mata, Central Los Angeles region bank president and board member for Long Beach Economic Partnership
‘I’m able to focus on results for my clients in bigger ways’
Scott found the workshops extremely helpful. “The financial education helped me open my eyes to how important it was to get my financials in order,” she said. “It became much more urgent, and I started to work hard to figure out how to make it happen. I feel like so many worries have been lifted off me over the last six months, and as a result, I’m able to focus on results for my clients in bigger ways.”
In addition to the support from the Long Beach Economic Partnership and Wells Fargo, Scott received other grants to help catch up on her taxes, upgrade her equipment, and automate her customer acquisition efforts, which increased productivity. She’s also been able to hire full-time staff, after primarily relying on herself and contractors, launch a signature program, and increase business.
Scott is looking forward to optimizing her company website, obtaining certifications as a woman- and minority-owned business to pursue public and private contracts, and hosting a client conference in late July.
“I’ve literally bootstrapped this company on my own, and when I got the grant, it just meant so much,” Scott said. “This is my dream come true, and I’m just grateful that somebody I didn’t even know decided to plant a seed, and I want to say, ‘thank you.’”
“This is my dream come true, and I’m just grateful that somebody I didn’t even know decided to plant a seed, and I want to say, ‘thank you.’” — Zhe Scott, founder and CEO of The SEO Queen