Helping Hands

In a recession, it’s tempting for small business owners to close ranks, slash spending, balk at risk, and focus on just making it day to day. But Désirée H. Young, a marketing and strategy consultant who cut her teeth in FEMA disaster recovery centers helping Hurricane Katrina victims reopen their businesses, says that’s no way to weather an economic storm.

“The recession is the time to sharpen the saw–that means keep what’s working and improve what’s not,” says the principal of New Orleans-based VentureWalk Business Partners. “It’s also a key time to increase marketing activities as the cost for many vehicles has been reduced and getting awareness up now, will position the small business owner to already be known, liked, and trusted as we move out of this economic downturn.”

The problem is many business owners’ enthusiasm for trying new things has been dampened by discouraging economic news. A seasoned consultant can help get owners back on track by assessing current operations, strategizing expansion and reinvention, conducting market research, aiding product development and branding, developing social marketing plans, and more.

Those aren’t the only benefits. “Working with a consultant that keeps his or her ear to what’s happening with the Small Business Administration’s initiatives in addition to local, state, and federal government programs can be well worth the investment,” says Young. “The small business owner can gain access to better loan rates, potential contracts, and more assistance at little or no cost.”

After Hurricane Katrina, Jason B. Horne and his wife, Monica, the owners of XS Martial Arts Dojo in New Orleans, were eager to launch an expensive re-opening marketing campaign with onscreen advertising in local cinemas. Young had a better idea. She persuaded them to advertise on television, which reached more people for less money. “We were holding at about 65 students, the TV commercials blew it up to 200,” Jason says. Now he calls the consultant his business GPS because her advice allows him to navigate operational and marketing challenges that fall outside of his martial arts expertise.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.