As small businesses continue to struggle in a post-pandemic world, digital transformation remains a critical component of success. Pennsylvania’s small businesses will now have the opportunity to improve their digital skills and expand their eCommerce business with the help of new digital programming from Temple University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is housed in the Fox School of Business.
On Sept. 2, 2021, the SBDC was awarded a $1.2 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), with a $300k match from the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED). The grant will be used to implement the Pennsylvania Digital Transformation and eCommerce Program (PADTEP).
PADTEP will serve all 67 counties in the Commonwealth with a distinct focus on small businesses most severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will help advance economic resiliency, create new job opportunities and attract private investments across the state.
“Pennsylvania’s economy is built on small businesses, and this CARES Act Recovery grant is validation of that fact,” said Dr. Jason Wingard, president of Temple University. “Small businesses need to be agile—especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. This grant will allow Temple and its Small Business Development Center to lead the charge towards advancing Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community and fortifying them to compete in the future market context.”
Temple SBDC Director Maura Shenker has made digital services a priority since the pandemic began. The Digital Connect program, which utilizes university students to implement and enhance web-based solutions for small businesses, was started to help businesses navigate the digital space when brick and mortar shops were forced to pivot online. PADTEP funding gives the center resources to expand on this digital programming in a robust way.
“This PADTEP funding allows Temple University and the SBDC to continue to support entrepreneurs in our community and throughout the Commonwealth with the critical digital tools and services they need to thrive,” says Shenker. “Small business growth online directly translates into local economic stability, strengthening neighborhoods and creating new opportunities for those hardest hit by the pandemic.”
PADTEP services will be delivered through webinars, in-person training, technical assistance, and strategic consulting with entrepreneurs and small businesses, and will be offered free of charge.
There are five focus areas PADTEP will address, based on an analysis of the most common digital needs of small businesses.
- Digital Literacy will be taught to help business owners who do not communicate digitally or understand best practices to gain a deeper understanding of all digital spaces. Classes will start online due to the pandemic; once in-person classes are feasible, digital literacy classes will take place in person at partner organizations throughout the Commonwealth.
- Website Audit, Design and Creation Services will offer website assistance for small businesses that need to create, expand or update their website, helping to increase their online presence and generate additional eCommerce and web traffic.
- eCommerce professionals will guide small businesses in evaluating the different eCommerce platforms available and help clients make the best strategic choice for the business.
- Cyber Security webinars will be offered on basic cyber security awareness, payment security and personal data security. Clients will also have the opportunity to meet for confidential one-one-one consulting with a PADTEP cyber specialist to review existing cyber security challenges.
- Digital Marketing webinars and no-cost consulting services will be available to teachsmall businesses how to leverage social media and SEO to drive website traffic. Clients can also work one-on-one with a PADTEP eCommerce specialist to create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.
“Temple SBDC has played a key role in assisting businesses across the region during the pandemic,” says Ron Anderson, dean of the Fox School and School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM). “Their efforts over the last year and a half have helped businesses navigate the CARES Act, evaluate reopening plans and pivot to digital services. This investment in their work demonstrates the need for continued support of our local business community.”
The SBDC is moving quickly to make these PADTEP services available. Client referrals can come from Chambers of Commerce, economic development partners, community business advocates, industry organizations and legislators. The center will share more information on how small businesses can access these services soon. Sign up for the SBDC newsletter for updates.
ABOUT THE FOX SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
The vision of Temple University’s Fox School of Business is to transform student lives, develop leaders, and impact our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research. The Fox School’s research institutes and centers as well as 200+ full-time faculty provide access to market-leading technologies and foster a collaborative and creative learning environment that offers more than curriculum—it offers an experience. Coupled with its leading student services, the Fox School ensures that its graduates are fully prepared to enter the job market.