The impact of COVID-19 on Charlotte’s entrepreneurs

On a mission to do what’s never been done before, entrepreneurs sometimes face obstacles they’ve never seen before. For many of our mentees, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic uncertainty associated with it have posed an existential threat to their ventures. 

At Innovate Charlotte, we are here to help. In 2017, we launched a mentorship program that provides founders with teams of mentors from all walks of life to offer guidance on everything from financials to marketing to strategy. We did that because we believe empowering entrepreneurs is crucial to fostering a vibrant and strong economy. 

It will be just as critical in bringing our economy back to life. 

The era of social distancing has made our work difficult, but not impossible. We’ve transitioned to virtual mentorship sessions. We’ve engaged in digital meetups and events. And we’ve kept tabs on our founders and our mentors throughout this crisis to determine when and how we can help.  

This is one of those efforts.

We’re opening up the floor to our entrepreneurs. In a series of interviews, they’ve shared with us their latest triumphs and their current struggles. We will post their stories in the coming days and weeks to give you a detailed look at what some companies are experiencing. To kick us off, here’s a look at what we’ve heard from a few of our founders.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

“Our paid customers are truly struggling as their entire spring season of events has been wiped out. For many of them, that means putting a stop to marketing. For others, they want to wait and see how long this continues before committing to any additional marketing spend.” — Samie Roberts, co-founder and COO of Bustld, an online wedding resource designed to connect couples with vetted local vendors and online resources.

“Driving revenue growth fast enough to fund tech updates.” — Jared James, founder of LottoEdge, which analyzes every scratch game and every prize to give lottery players an edge based on actual data. 

“Moving to a virtual platform quickly to access clients.” — Melissa Mehrlich, co-founder of MEAH Health Navigation, a healthcare consulting firm that provides care management, education and advocacy to families and caregivers.

What help do you need from the entrepreneurial community and/or INCLT mentors?

“In the coming weeks, our mobile app will launch on iOS and Google Play. We are going to need support from experts with an IT and software development background.” — Aubrey Yeboah, co-founder of BatteryXchange, a mobile phone charging solution with an IoT platform that enables customers to rent portable batteries and return them with ease.

Any relationships with commercial landscapers, grounds management companies, homeowners associations, townships and universities would be of great help to accelerate our pipeline of sales so that we can continue to hire more seamstresses, seamsters, screen printers and fulfillment employees right here in Charlotte. – Marc Mataya, founder of Leaf Burrito, an innovative and eco-friendly reusable yard-debris bag invented, designed and manufactured in the USA.

“Spreading the word about our disinfection services and connecting us with any essential businesses that can use our help. We are uniquely positioned with OSHA- and CDC-trained teams to provide disinfection that everyone needs right now. Anything helps right now!” – Chris Wright, founder of Whystle, a home cleaning service that allows customers to book disinfection and move-in cleanings through the company’s website.

Do you have any good news we could also share?

“We have pivoted quickly to connect members digitally, revamp our podcast program and are proactively pushing Advent to become a bigger/badder coworking space when the new ‘normal’ arrives.” — Kevin Giriunas, founder of Advent Coworking, a creative coworking community in Charlotte where artists, designers and entrepreneurs can come together and innovate.  

“This has been a great time to build plans and prepare. That time isn’t usually received. We have test clients for our desktop app who have to be at home, so we lucked out.” — David Hunt, founder of Framewrk, a consulting agency that provides guidance to startups and small businesses through its intuitive Q&A app. 

“24/7, 365 days a year, we feature the work of local artists on billboards, newsstands and more and have been doing so for 7 years in Charlotte.” — Wendy Hickey, founder of ArtPop Street Gallery, a nonprofit organization that promotes the work of local artists on available media space — billboards, buses, news racks, airports — and turns roads, highways and thoroughfares into opportunities for artistic appreciation and discovery.  

“I was able to secure a one-year contract with UNCC.” — Domonique Boone, founder of Leslie’s Laundry Care, which provides on-demand mobile laundry services and dry cleaning in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.

Thank you to Kepler Team for sponsoring our communications. If you’d like to help founders through this crisis and beyond, or you’re an entrepreneur looking for guidance, consider joining the INCLT mentorship program. Applications for both mentors and founders are now open at our website. Challenging times call for expert insight. Apply today.