CAN DO and CAN BE, along with the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce and other members of the Greater Hazleton COVID-19 Recovery & Resiliency Task Force, are helping small businesses across Greater Hazleton receive free assistance to either establish or increase their online presence as they respond to challenges faced in light of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

In October, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce received a Luzerne County Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant that was used to help local small businesses address their digital and social media marketing needs. This marketing assistance included helping them build websites to provide informational and online ordering options as well as growing their social media presence to stay connected with customers and the public. The first round of businesses were asked to apply online and applications were reviewed by task force members. Placing emphasis on necessity, businesses with no website or e-commerce platform were prioritized for selection.

Digital marketing agency Design Done Right assisted selected businesses with the work. Four of the businesses – Faberge Follies, Manuel's Empanadas, Sanzi Chiropractic and United Tax Multiservices – are almost completely finished building their website or social media properties and are already seeing success from the efforts.

CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock said, “CAN DO is very excited to partner with the members of the Recovery & Resiliency Task Force to provide assistance to small businesses throughout Greater Hazleton and Luzerne County. It has been especially apparent this year how adjusting your business model is a part of business growth. This program has offered invaluable assistance to businesses looking to get online or modify their online presence while also making it easier for community members to support small businesses during this time.”

Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce President Mary Malone said, “The County CARES grant money that the Recovery & Resiliency Task Force was able to invest in small businesses in the Greater Hazleton area has been a bright spot during a challenging year. The opportunity to offer businesses the expertise of a firm like Design Done Right can help them open up new revenue streams or make the pivot essential for survival in the new environment.”

When the pandemic hit the area in March, CAN DO, CAN BE and the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce immediately jumped into action and joined forces with the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress and the City of Hazleton, along with other local and regional economic development partners, to form the task force. In April, the group conducted the Greater Hazleton Small Business COVID-19 Impact Study and discovered that nearly 35% of local businesses didn't have a website and more than 82% weren't selling any of their products or services online. Additionally, more than 20% of the businesses wanted to market bilingually and expand their customer base but didn't know how to begin. As a result, the task force reached out to digital marketing agencies to find one that could properly help the businesses develop their online presence.

Michelle Bersch, founder of Design Done Right, said, “The team at Design Done Right was honored to be selected as the agency to help Luzerne County small businesses. It was a unique project as we are able to help companies in three different ways: through an informational website, an e-commerce website to sell products online, and social media. This allowed flexibility during our discovery call to best tailor a customized solution for each business. Being a local small business ourselves, it is great to work with the community to offer our services to them at no charge. We are able to build a solid marketing foundation together to help their business succeed through the pandemic.”

Carol Zielinski, better known to the community as Miss Faberge and the owner of Faberge Follies, said she was humbled to receive this help from the Greater Hazleton organizations that are part of the Recovery & Resiliency Task Force and that it has helped keep her dance studio in the public eye during a time when she can't have in-person classes or shows. She added that she wouldn't have been able to afford to do this work herself and that it is helping her to continue to serve the area during the pandemic.

Jessica Rodriguez of Manuel's Empanadas said having a website in place is helping her family's restaurant better service their customers. She said establishing a website is helping newcomers to town discover the restaurant and allowing current customers to stay engaged, place orders online, and learn more information about their menu, events, closures and specials from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Not to mention the ability to have orders delivered right to their doorsteps with ease! Rodriguez added that having this assistance from the task force helps small business owners like her parents who don't have a lot of technological knowledge understand the impact a website can have on their businesses.

Dr. Lauren Sanzi, of Sanzi Chiropractic, said she had wanted to get a website together for a long time but, as a small business owner just starting out, it became a matter of keeping costs down and having the time to do it. She said having this free assistance has been a silver lining for her and she is grateful to have a website to get her name out in the public.

Small businesses (15 full-time employees or less with revenue under $500,000) may apply for this no-cost assistance via the Chamber website or the following link:  https://businessassistance.questionpro.com/. Existing retail and service businesses in need of a website or online assistance to help them meet growing expectations of online/e-commerce, mail order, and delivery are encouraged to apply – please be sure to select website assistance on the application to be considered for this program. Qualified businesses selected to move forward will be responsible for website domain and hosting costs, as well as supplying necessary content for their website such as photography, product names and descriptions, and written content to be placed on the website. This grant program does not include professional services such as content creation, creative writing, photography, or graphic/logo design. Businesses need not be Chamber members to apply.