By: Sara Bauknecht | Pittsburgh Post Gazette | May 4, 2020 | Read the full story
Online sales have been a safety net for small businesses forced to temporarily close their storefronts in response to COVID-19. But what about those that aren’t equipped to sell things on the internet?
Representatives from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, Neighborhood Allies and the Urban Redevelopment Authority have launched the Get Online and Grow Online small business program. It aims to build e-commerce platforms for local businesses or give existing websites an upgrade.
Applications for the first cohort are due 5 p.m. Tuesday. Complete the form at bit.ly/2x4UdUn to apply.
With storefronts closed, is online shopping paying off for local retailers? To be considered, applicants must have fewer than 15 employees and be an existing retailer or food/beverage business within the city of Pittsburgh. Businesses in Wilkinsburg, Sharpsburg, Millvale, Etna, Mount Oliver and McKees Rocks also are eligible.
The program grew out of other initiatives Mr. Peduto’s office and local organizations already had in the works to promote small businesses, including a poster campaign encouraging people to shop online that will appear soon at the city’s bus shelters.
“A lot of businesses, especially the smallest ones, don’t have a web presence,” said Henry Horn Pyatt, economic opportunity manager for Mayor Peduto’s office. “Or maybe they do, but it’s just a Facebook page. They’re not modern with ordering and inventory. When you can’t be physically open, that’s all the more important.”
Those selected to participate will be matched with a business consultant who will help owners spruce up their web presence. They’ll receive up to five hours of free technical assistance for tasks such as improving search engine optimization, developing a website or outfitting an existing site with an ordering system.
Mr. Horn Pyatt said the program came together quickly out of need.
“We used little bits of resources from all of our different agencies to make it work.”
He anticipates that another round will be introduced in the coming weeks so even more small businesses can apply. To learn more, email Demi Kolke at email@example.com.