Helping St. Pete Businesses Meet COVID Critical Supply Shortages

-By Gypsy C. Gallardo for the One Community Business Network

When disasters erupt, African American entrepreneurs are typically a small factor in the multi-billion-dollar recovery markets that result. Take one of Florida’s most recent emergencies as an example. Hurricane Irma was called the costliest storm in state history, not only in lives lost, but in dollars spent to rebound from the devastation. The state suffered an estimated $50 billion in damage repair and replacement costs, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency response supplies and equipment. Thousands of businesses and contractors took part in recovery efforts, but few were local to St. Pete, and even fewer were black-owned companies.

That’s one reason the #InThisTogether initiative by One Community at Pinellas County Urban League is working diligently to identify COVID-related market opportunities for small and black-owned businesses in St. Pete, to not only meet critical supply needs but to help salvage their lost revenues due to the downturn.

It was Lisa Harley’s idea to organize community businesses to capture COVID-related market opportunities. When one of our janitorial companies reported the cancellation of cleaning jobs due to the pandemic, Lisa suggested she pivot to sanitization services that were suddenly in high demand.
COVID outbreak and containment efforts have created dozens of market opportunities, according to Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC), the largest minority business development organization in Florida and a partner to St. Pete’s One Community team.
As the nation grapples with critical shortages of supplies and equipment as a result, Beatrice Louissaint, CEO of the FSMSDC says “We’ve had government and corporate buyers send urgent requests. They’re even waiving the normal supplier registration and certification processes just to meet the needs.”
Dr. Cynthia Johnson, Director of Pinellas County’s Office of Small Business & Supplier Diversity, has also encouraged local businesses of all kinds to identify critical or near-term opportunities with local governments.

Critical Shortages & High-Demand Markets

Personal protective equipment (PPE) tops the list of high-demand products. This includes masks, gowns, goggles, face shields, and swabs. But other services are experiencing higher demand than usual, including digital media, transportation, virtual work technologies, and software programming, among others.
Consumer markets are also facing heightened demand in grocery products, online entertainment, delivery drivers, education technologies, and home improvement products and services.
Locally, COVID recovery efforts have created demand for a range of products and services. #InThisTogether is supported by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, the City, and community contributions to employ two dozen contractors for community services such as tax preparation, CARES Act and loan navigator services, public information campaigns, and projects such as Spruce Up South St. Pete (engaging janitorial and contracting companies for exterior and interior renovation work with community businesses).

See the list of urgently needed products & services below. 

4 Ways One Community is Helping Local Enterprises Meet Demand 

  1. Webinar – How to Access COVID Market Opportunities – One Community will co-host a webinar for local businesses, conducted by the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council (FSMSDC), the state leader in facilitating contracts between corporate and government buyers and minority-owned firms (over $30 billion to date). FSMSDC will spotlight products and services in highest demand among corporate and government buyers, and ways to fast-track quotes on current opportunities. This session is Tuesday, April 14th at 10 a.m. via GoToMeetings, organized by Izabelle James. Click here to RSVP.
  2. Dedicated Scout – One Community has retained the services of Elizabeth Siplin of EMPACT Solutions to serve as a point-person, scouting for opportunities and helping businesses to capture opportunities. Reach Elizabeth at
  3. Local Mask Producers Collaborative – For those producing masks, a local group of social entrepreneurs is organizing mass production spaces to create employment opportunities for workers losing jobs, while also helping ease the critical shortage of masks. Reach Elizabeth at
  4. Collective Capabilities Statement – One Community is creating an online roster of businesses that will be marketed to local government agencies with urgent and short-term needs. Dr. Cynthia Johnson and April Harley, Chair of the Inclusive St Pete DEI Steering Committee, are pitching in to share the roster with government and corporate procurement teams. If you sell B2B and would like to be considered for inclusion in the Collective Capabilities Statement, email a brief one paragraph description of your firm’s capabilities, your logo, a list of your top five NAICS codes, and a list of your buyer certifications, if any (e.g., DBE, SBE, MBE, WBE). Send these items to us at
To share news, views and resources with One Community, email Gypsy Gallardo.

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