It’s been more than ten months since a lava flow devastated parts of lower Puna on Hawaiʻi Island. More than 700 structures were lost, and the event disrupted other parts of life for many residents. And that includes small businesses in the area – which are now getting some help from a unique combination of organizations.
The Small Business Development Center is a partnership between UH Hilo and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Judi Mellon is the director of the Hilo Center.
“Businesses in Pāhoa are by and large suffering. Citizens living there, a lot of vacation rentals, that generate money, revenue, and jobs in Pāhoa are gone. Many restaurants are really hurting, have scaled back their staffs and their hours, that’s true of retail as well as people that were doing yard service, house cleaning, handyman and construction work.”
The Small Business Development Center, working with the nonprofit Kohala Center and Hawaiʻi County, has surveyed businesses to see what they need most.
“We are looking to offer some practical, free business classes so those business owners can rethink their business, retool, hone the way they do business – maybe even spark some new outlets."
The free classes will include some business basics: from the accounting program Quickbooks to insights on marketing. They will also cover the use of social media, and how to create or upgrade a website. Mellon says grants from Hawaii County will fund the instructors. The classes begin in April, but Mellon reminds business owners of an earlier critical date.
“If your business on this island has suffered economic loss because of the Kīlauea eruption, there is a deadline for filing for the SBA Disaster Loan for Business Economic Recovery. That deadline is March 14th. “