In mid-March when schools and businesses closed and events cancelled, Emily Breedlove was challenged with the same things we all were. How does she maintain her business, home school her children, and confront an unprecedented world crisis?
Emily barely skipped a beat. A 15-year veteran of efforts in small business support and community development, she immediately saw a need.
“Businesses were being told to go home, but there were a lot of companies sitting on assets and resources that they knew their communities were needing to address the pandemic,” she told me.
She says they were quickly seeing that while government leaders needed resources and help, there were relationship barriers that needed to be overcome.
“We were turned away because none of the organizations or governments knew how to bring us to the table,” she said.
Emily teamed up with 5 other business leaders to create a first-of-its-kind connector.
“We started creating a makeshift database of what companies had what resources. We were kind of inventorying, resource mapping within our own community and as soon as we hung that sign – saying ‘Who has what? Tell us.’ we were inundated.”
The database quickly became unable to handle the volume of what they were seeing.
Together, they pooled their skills to create a community mobilizing web application that connects small businesses with local, state and federal government agencies in need of specific supplies. There are now 12 people on the team.
The effort, called COVIDMobilize, acts like a “Craig’s List” for businesses to post what they have, and governments to look for what they need. The beta version has been released, and now COVIDMobilize is reaching out to businesses across the country to list what they have, and encouraging governments to “go shopping”. Listing and reviewing the directory is free.
COVIDMobilize has already been recognized by industry leaders for being ahead of the curve. The same day the app was released to the public, COVIDMobilize was accepted into the Raleigh Internet of Things (RIoT) MISSION-R Program. Also known as RIoT, the economic development nonprofit creates opportunities around the world through activating emerging markets and accelerating startups.
The web app team has already started meeting with the RIoT around scaling tactics in preparation for the national roll-out of the tool. “Now the work begins,” says Emily.
“That’s my challenge. We are so far ahead of the curve on this, we are trying to educate states and agencies around the country. This tool was not available for the first wave (of the Pandemic), but it’s available for the second wave,” referencing the predicted uptick in cases in the fall of this year.
“This is the calm before the storm,” she added.
In addition to making sure communities have much needed resources, COVIDMobilize also fulfills a lifelong mission of Breedlove’s, to support small business.
“How can we level the playing field, so small businesses can be on the front line of addressing the American recovery? Government doesn’t know who has what (among small businesses) so they use traditional corporate sources,” she said, hoping the app changes that.
And while leading the development of the app is time consuming for Emily, as she runs her other business Breedlove & Co, and her growing summer camp, girlBOSS, she knew there were other reasons she needed to maintain her seat at the table being the only woman involved in the project’s development.
“I had to acknowledge my involvement was critical. It was important for me to stay in the mix because we needed a woman at the table to represent women on this project,” and wants to tell other women, “We have to keep fighting even when it’s a constant juggle.”
Stephanie Carson is a corporate video producer and journalist in North Carolina. In her spare time, she helps her husband with his hard cidery and serves as a “Ski Mom” to her two daughters who race competitively.