In response to Coronavirus, Charlotte’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce set out to assist minority-owned small businesses. ReadyCLT guided business leaders to receive timely financial relief, obtain personal protection equipment, and maintain their community’s public health. Nextiva’s virtual phone system powered its outreach with the local business community.
On March 27, 2020, the federal government approved financial relief for small businesses due to COVID-19. As a part of a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package known as the CARES Act, millions of companies sought to receive financial assistance.
Over 27 million small businesses across the United States scrambled to understand a trio of relief programs and do it while making payroll. PPP, EIDL, PUA — these all had different requirements, uses of the proceeds, and a labyrinth of timelines.
CEO of the Charlotte LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, Chad Turner, grew concerned with the pandemic’s impact on more than 35,000 businesses in the surrounding area. With the Charlotte Small Business Coalition backing, Turner founded ReadyCLT as an inclusive way to help Charlotte’s small companies navigate new restrictions and stay open safely.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish using Nextiva’s platform is amazing.”Chad Turner, LGBT Chamber CEO
In particular, small businesses needed to:
- Navigate the numerous paths to obtain small business grants and loans.
- Acquire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees for maximum safety.
- Inform the community about changes to their business hours and availability.
The business community found it challenging to obtain loans and grants from the Small Business Administration. America’s largest banks had long waitlists while deadlines loomed.
Following public health mandates that inhibit commerce, smaller businesses risked more significant losses that could lead to permanent closures. ReadyCLT was driven to change Charlotte’s economic outcomes from the pandemic.
Speed and reliability proved to be essential
Upon founding ReadyCLT, Turner contacted Daniel Pentecost and CLT Geek, an NGLCC Certified LGBTBE, Nextiva partner, and trusted IT expert within the community. Pentecost quickly set up a website and adopted Nextiva for its business communications needs.
“We went with Nextiva because I had used the platform extensively before — including in my own office. I knew it could take us from zero to 100 within 24 hours.” Pentecost explained. “I trusted it would perform on Wi-Fi and could immediately power the seven phone extensions we needed for the team to start tangibly assisting small businesses. We installed the Nextiva App on their laptops and phones. Then we set them loose.”
“Nextiva was a miracle for ReadyCLT and the Charlotte small business community.”Daniel Pentecost, Founder of CLT Geek
Seemingly overnight, while other local efforts struggled to get off the ground, ReadyCLT was able to start serving the roughly 35,000 small businesses in North Carolina’s metropolitan hub.
Using Nextiva, the ReadyCLT “guides” began proactive outreach to local women- and minority-owned businesses. They helped business owners secure financial assistance, launched digital advertising campaigns to drive awareness amid the pandemic, and provided PPE (masks, face shields, and hand sanitizer). These efforts contributed to the local business community’s success so they could remain operational with health regulations.
“We’ve spoken to over 8,000 businesses, successfully directed 170 small business grants, and provided 165,000 pieces of PPE to the city,” says Turner. Approximately 70% of the business owners they speak with daily are minority-owned businesses, and nearly 60% of the local Charlotte businesses with whom they engaged had less than two weeks of operating funds available.
“Our usage of Nextiva is a testament to the trustworthiness of the platform.”Daniel Pentecost, Founder of CLT Geek
Turner estimates ReadyCLT interacts with 100 businesses per day using Nextiva’s virtual phone system. Turner credits the company’s industry-leading uptime, reliability, and usability as key benefits of adopting the platform.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish using Nextiva’s platform is amazing,” says Turner. “We’ve experienced zero issues with Nextiva whatsoever. That’s been a major benefit for us — given the high volume of calls we’re on every day and the magnitude of those calls for the business owners we are helping.”
Swift deployment resulted in more meaningful conversations
Pentecost credits Nextiva with his rapid launch of ReadyCLT, which he took live operationally, via a new website, logo, marketing package, and phone service, over the span of 24 hours. He has kept running seamlessly throughout the pandemic. As Turner describes it, CLT Geek succeeded in “building the plane while we were flying it.”
“Our usage of Nextiva, while seemingly simple, is powerful and a testament to the trustworthiness of the platform,” says Pentecost. “The core desire of ReadyCLT was to answer every call coming into the center. We couldn’t risk missing calls or sending them to voicemail. This was in stark contrast to the hours-long hold times businesses faced when calling government offices. We knew we could do better.”
The implementation was simple and scalable.
Pentecost configured Nextiva to use call groups to distribute calls to the team regardless of their physical location. All the staff needed to do was install the Nextiva App on their laptops or mobile phones. Due to the cloud-based phone system, there wasn’t a need for desk phones.
“This lean, iterative deployment is the kind of project CLT Geek loves but with which most other voice providers fall short. Nextiva helped us exceed client expectations.”
Lasting impact on the Charlotte business community
The City of Charlotte has received over $154 million in CARES Act funding. The federal government earmarked $30 million for small business grants and $20 million for ancillary assistance with partner grants and workforce development.
“We’ve experienced zero issues with Nextiva whatsoever.”Chad Turner, LGBT Chamber CEO
The team at ReadyCLT has helped hundreds of businesses to apply for and receive those funds over the past few months, keep their doors open, and continue paying their staff. Turner and Pentecost have been instrumental in pushing the City of Charlotte to create a task force geared explicitly toward COVID-19 outreach and local businesses’ assistance.
“Nextiva was a miracle for ReadyCLT and the Charlotte small business community,” says Pentecost. “To think that we’ve been able to help hundreds of businesses with thousands of employees receive these much needed funds is a testament to the strength of Charlotte’s small business leaders. We are grateful to Nextiva for helping us be of service to the community through this time.”
- Set up a commercial phone system in one day
- No additional hardware or telecom equipment
- Made over 8,000 inbound and outbound business contacts
- Local business community received more than $154 million in relief