Why These Grants are a Lifeline for Small Businesses

    Covid-19 has changed customer service - from bike tours to food delivery, here’s how one entrepreneur is using technology and adapting 

    The owner of Charlotte NC Tours made a big change during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    When cities across the country locked down during the spring of 2020, her bicycle and Segway touring business saw revenues plummet. In February alone, she refunded more than $30,000 in cancelled tours and trips.

    “Our business in Charlotte is heavily reliant on meetings, sporting events, concerts and conventions,” said business owner Dianna Ward. “None of those events are taking place.”

    Dianna learned about Small Business Innovation Fund grants from Charlotte City Center Partners and Honeywell.

    Here’s how that grant helped her pivot.

    A Local Focus

    With fewer customers and a stable of bicycles no longer in use, Ward thought back to an idea she had when she was just starting her business: local food delivery—but via e-bike and Segway.

    As food ordering apps soared in popularity due to the pandemic, she saw an opportunity to launch a Charlotte-focused food delivery app. The business would partner with local restaurants.

    Her angle? Large-scale delivery apps charge restaurants fees for their services. Her new business would deliver for locally-owned restaurants for less – a lifeline for their owners in a difficult environment.

    Making a Change

    When Ward’s grant came in, she got to work immediately, purchasing needed equipment and a custom-made app platform for customers.

    InTown Charlotte e-Delivery Service has already partnered with 14 local restaurants and one local retailer, many of which are stops on her pre-pandemic tours. Ward is already targeting expanding to 25 restaurants and growing InTown’s footprint in Charlotte – a goal made possible by the grant.

    “A lot of small businesses don’t have big reserves of cash,” Ward said. “This grant is allowing us to operate on our own.”

    Meet more Small Business Innovation Fund grantees and learn how they’re pivoting their businesses to navigate the pandemic.