Self-Help Tradition Revived; Creative Efforts to Help Businesses Cope with Coronavirus Downturn

A host of community leaders are active in the push to help community business weather the crisis. Pastor Louis Murphy, Albert Lee and Watson Hayes are leading One Community efforts to raise support, while Tamara Felton, Mendee Ligon, Liz Siplin and Izabelle James have stepped up to serve as “point” on various services.

“Self-help” was a freighted concept for much of the 20th century, but people of African descent and other groups have long relied on the philosophy (in its purest sense) for everything from economic uplift and social safety nets to political empowerment. The movement is now front-and-center once again, as African American leaders in St. Petersburg rally to help community businesses through the so far devastating toll of Coronavirus shutdowns and slowdowns.

– Gypsy C. Gallardo for One Community Business Network

National and local analyst say black-owned businesses are likely to be among the hardest hit by the recession rapidly taking root. The reason for that, according to Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, is that the types of businesses black people tend to own make them more vulnerable to the pandemic.

Indeed, here in St. Petersburg, the community’s barbershops and beauty salons are suffering a 75% loss in revenue, according to a recent survey by the One Community Plan team, while the special events supply chain has entirely collapsed, leaving dozens of microbusinesses without revenue, including caterers, restaurant owners, event planners, AV techs, promoters,

Non-emergency healthcare businesses are suffering too. “Cancellations and mixed messaging have caused confusion and revenue loss,” said Dr. Mendee Ligon of Ligon Dental. “Even allowing staff to use earned vacation time suddenly is going to be a financial challenge. We’ve had 50% patient service decrease per day.”

Dr. Michael McPherson of Pinellas Spine & Joint says “Our volume has dropped 60% after the social isolation recommendations. We average 20 guests per day prior to the pandemic. We now average five to eight. Next week I expect a complete shutdown. This will inevitably send our revenue to zero.”

Genuine Healthcare Institute conducts trainings on basic and advanced life support for healthcare facilities, nurses, and community groups. Owner Lottie Cuthbertson says, “We had to cancel six scheduled trainings due to the restrictions, which equals a loss of $4,900 in fees.”

In response to the downturn, leaders of the One Community Plan team at Pinellas County Urban League are reviving the self-help tradition with a COVID-19 support initiative, designed for micro and community businesses struggling to cope with the still-not-new-normal of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative – called #InThisTogether for short – has devised five ways to help local firms through this crisis period (see the graphic below).

If you or someone you know is in need of one-on-one help or advice, please be in touch with one of our point-people.

Creative Mutual Support Projects

It was Dr. Mendee Ligon’s idea to create a Pre-Payment Drive to help local barbers, hair stylists and nail techs buffer their losses. She says “If all of us who use these services can pre-pay and go later to get our hair or nails done, that’s at least some help now for our beauty businesses. I know we have other creative ideas out there to help us through this.”

Dr. Ligon has volunteered to help on two fronts. One, she will be working with Power Broker Media to publish money-saving and financial management advice to business owners, and two, she will help identify and active creative responses to the crisis.

If you have an idea for mutual aid for community entrepreneurs, reach Dr. Mendee Ligon at

Legal Advice

The pandemic is causing new legal challenges for some in the community, including residential and commercial tenant disputes, court proceedings put on hold, cases of domestic violence, and the cancellation of real estate transactions, among others.

Attorney Tamara Felton-Howard is the first local lawyer to step up to be part of the OneComm response team. She is In-House Counsel for the 2020 Plan, Inc. (lead organizers of the One Community Plan) and Managing Member at Felton-Howard Law.

Atty Felton-Howard is available, via phone consultations, to assist in matters involving probate, real estate, small business law, family and criminal law. She may be reached at 727-202-8626 and

Emergency Economic Programs Point Person

The newly created emergency loan programs are overwhelmed with requests. The SBA has so far received over 1 million loan requests and local SBDC offices (which are processing applications for the Florida Emergency Business Loan Program) are fielding inquiries as quickly as they can. Unemployment programs are also overwhelmed for the moment.

To help local businesses navigate the maze of new economic adjustment programs, the One Community team has deployed Elizabeth Siplin of EMPACT Solutions as COVID-19 Economic Program Access Consultant.

Elizabeth and her team at Empact Solutions can provide consulting to small business owners in the following areas:

  • Understanding loans, grants and other financial options available to cope with COVID-19 crisis
  • Adjustment assistance for business owners looking to re-purpose or rebrand their products and services to take advantage of COVID-19 contract opportunities
  • Identifying new contract opportunities
  • Providing vendor registration information to access current opportunities

To reach Elizabeth, call 855-736-7228 or email her at

CARES Act Conference Call for Community Leaders

Izabelle James of James Insurance Solutions has volunteered to serve as a project leader for a conference call of over 100 pastors, non-profit leaders, business owners, neighborhood association presidents and others to bring them up to speed on the financial help embodied in the CARES Act passed by the Senate on yesterday and still to be signed into by President Trump.

The call is being staged for next Thursday, April 2nd, hosted by One Community, Pinellas County Urban League, and Seven x 7. The Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete will provide the conferencing facility.

If interested in participating, please email


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