How an Ivy League school backs local businesses

Columbia University loans will help small businesses 'restock, rehire and reconfigure'
By: | June 10, 2020
Economic challenges caused by the coronavirus could shutter 40 percent of New York's small businesses, leaving nearly 1.5 million people without jobs, according to statistics cited by Columbia University. (GettyImages.com/ Philip Dumas)Economic challenges caused by the coronavirus could shutter 40 percent of New York's small businesses, leaving nearly 1.5 million people without jobs, according to statistics cited by Columbia University. (GettyImages.com/ Philip Dumas)

With New York City entering Phase I of reopening, Columbia University has launched a loan fund to support small upper Manhattan businesses trying to make it through the impacts of the coronavirus.

The Columbia Emergency Loan Fund for Small Businesses will provide low-interest loans ranging from $500 to $50,000 to business north of 96th Street in the city. The funds should support owners as they “restock, rehire and reconfigure” while also following social distancing and other health protocols, the university says.

The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center at Columbia Business School will help business owners apply for the loans. The center, which opened in 2009, has also been assisting small businesses as they apply for federal coronavirus relief funds.

Economic challenges caused by the coronavirus could shutter 40 percent of New York’s small businesses, leaving nearly 1.5 million people without jobs, according to statistics cited by Columbia University.


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The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center provides one-on-one counseling and free workshops that are modeled on the university’s MBA program. Its offerings include the Harlem Local Vendors Program, Pitch Workshop Series & Competition and the Brand Story Workshop & Series Competition.

The center’s newest program, Business Model Pivot, will guide business owners in designing innovative revenue models and cost structures to help them recover from COVID-19.

“These restaurants and local vendors are our neighbors,”  Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement. “We wouldn’t be a community without them, and we hope this effort helps as many as possible to survive the pandemic’s devastating economic blow.”

More colleges supporting small businesses

Columbia is not the only higher ed institution doing this work.

The Cape Fear Community College Small Business Center in North Carolina has received funding to join “Reboot, Recover, Rebuild,” a statewide program designed to provide small business owners with free counseling, coaching and other resources.

The center will guide business owners in creating marketing plans, working with creditors, scaling operations and applying for loans, among other strategies.


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In Illinois, Illinois Small Business Development Center at College of DuPage is also supporting small businesses in their efforts to recover from the pandemic.

“We are now helping small business owners re-evaluate how they can change their services to maintain sales,” Business Development Center Program Manager Rita Haake said in a news release. “We have been focused on helping our clients navigate economic relief packages, the payroll protection program, business loans, grants and how they can stay afloat during these uncertain times.”

The center’s website has become a hub of COVID-19 resources. In April alone, it offered more than 30 webinars and provided more than 500 hours of free consultation.


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.