Officials: Small and minority-owned businesses need strong plans coming out of pandemic

Main Street Hamilton Ohio
Small businesses struggled over the course of the pandemic, but the Ohio Minority Business Assistance Center says they need a resiliency plan in addition to a business plan. NICK GRAHAM/FILE

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Many small and minority-owned businesses in Ohio were not prepared for a major event like the novel coronavirus pandemic that devastated small businesses and are continuing to recover, experts said.

“Half of the businesses we help don’t even have a business plan,” said Marlene Fout, business counselor with the Ohio Minority Business Assistance Center Cincinnati. “But I think the COVID pandemic showed there’s a need for a business plan.”

Fout is one of the presenters at Thursday’s Fairfield business roundtable virtual Zoom meeting sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, the city of Fairfield, OhioMeansJobs Butler County, and the Fairfield Community Foundation.

Fairfield Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaelin said many of the minority-owned businesses in the city are the public’s favorite restaurants, shops and other types of businesses.

“The city was able to help some of these businesses through our CARES Act business relief grant program last winter, but we know that many small businesses are still feeling impacts from the pandemic,” said Kaelin.

The business roundtable series is one of several ways the city and chamber look “to support small businesses and facilitate growth of businesses owned by ethnic minorities, women, and veterans,” he said.

Minority businesses, which include businesses owned by women, veterans, and people with disabilities, in addition to people of color, however, need more than just a business plan, said Fout. She said they need a resiliency plan, which allows a business to adapt quickly in order to survive and prosper.

“They need to do more than to plan on the immediate issues,” she said. “There are a lot of small and minority businesses that are just now realizing because of the pandemic they need a website.”

When people were at home searching Google for types of businesses to order products from, Fout said those businesses without an online presence were hurt even more.

She said she’s working with businesses to have a “future-back strategy,” which is a secondary business plan to prepare for the future business environment.

“We thought digital transformation wouldn’t be the norm for several more years, and yet it’s now on the immediate horizon,” said Fout. “Things like blockchain and cryptocurrency, they’re already here.”

In a 2020 Forbes interview, Mark Johnson, co-founder of Innosight, a strategy and innovation management consultancy company, said business leaders have a “future-back strategy,” where they “visualize what their organizations could be” and do what they need to in order to be prepared for the future. Johnson said this strategy doesn’t replace present-forward thinking ― strategies that work in the now ― but rather complements it.

Fout said that a forward-thinking approach includes looking at trends and technology-based products, like with virtual meetings. When COVID-19 hit, virtual meetings with programs like Zoom or Microsoft Teams were not commonplace, but now it’s the norm.

Fout will be joining the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce next week at its Coffee & Conversations. At the Fairfield virtual event on Thursday, she will share about free resources for small and minority businesses, which include those owned by women, veterans, and people with disabilities, in addition to people of color.

According to the Hamilton Chamber’s virtual event, Fout will “lay out the steps local business owners can take to leverage various types of certification with the state of Ohio.” She’ll also provide information about marketing and business growth opportunities available.

“Small and minority businesses need to be aware and knowledgeable about these things for the future to be successful in the future.”


The next Fairfield Business Roundtable will highlight free resources for small and minority business owners and entrepreneurs. The event is free and open to all.

To participate in the virtual event, which is set for 8:30 a.m. June 17, email

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