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COVID-19: Massive list of resources for Texas professionals

(BUSINESS NEWS) This is a resource list compiled to help any business tackle the various challenges that coincide with a global pandemic like COVID-19.

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Austin skyline

Well, that escalated quickly. We were saddened by the cancellation of SXSW which for 34 years has brought thousands of people to Austin to celebrate interactive, music and tech. Many entrepreneurs, artists and small business owners thrive on their exposure and sales during this two-week festival. Many bars, restaurants and shops rely on this additional foot traffic each year.

Some amazing person quickly pulled together ilostmygig.com where people could report in about the wage, they were losing due to the cancellation of the festival.

Not much later, we may have been complaining about our daily commutes in Austin traffic and the next told that our workplaces were closed, and we would need to start having meetings on Zoom, Skype and MS Teams and work remotely for an indefinite time.

Schools and daycare may have also been closed, with not much notice, so people are balancing doing this new work from home all the time while having a child/children home too. Others in Austin were not sure what their workplaces would do and sat by their emails at 11pm on Sunday night.

We know this sudden shift in our daily lives hurts. This hurts everyone whether you’re a full-time employee, small business owner, local artist and maker, restaurant/bar owner and/or self-employed. A Small Business Friends ATX group quickly pulled together a webinar with resources for their community and we have permission to share here. Many of these are also an attempt to support some of our small business owners in our world here in Austin, TX.

We hope this list provides you with some great ideas and/or resources to do while the world around us in uncertain. This is by no means an exhaustive list (and is highly relevant to Texas) but could also offer you ideas to seek out in your community. Either way, it’s a great demonstration of the power of community – whether in real life or online.

Erin Wike, Career Coach and Lecturer at UT Austin, Owner of Cafe Con Resume and Small Business Friends ATX Co-Founder (Austin-based owner):

TEXAS – Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Disaster Unemployment Assistance During or After Natural Disasters

Design Your Life Workbook – If you need some help with design thinking prompts and guidance on how to explore new opportunities in your business, this guided workbook helps you to draw out what potential there is in an easy format and at your own pace.

Super U Podcast (also on Spotify) (Austin-based owner)
Erik Qualman’s Super U Podcast has tons of great tips on personal/digital branding and stories of people bringing out their superpowers. The March 16 podcast is about Online Classes and Online Learning during Coronavirus Quarantine. He also shares great tips on Instagram (short sound bites)
(And shameless plug, Erin Wike is interviewed on the 2/26 episode about The Modern Resume and Aligning your Passions with work).

The Prowess Project Certification
16-hour certification on teamwork, interpersonal skills, technology and Project Management principles. (Austin-based owner)

Doers Shakers Makers
Sierra Bailey’s Podcast has tons of great tips for tiny, talented business owners around content marketing, scaling, time management, etc. (Austin-based owner)
She also has a free Facebook group and virtual meet ups.

Google Analytics 101 for Small Business Owners (recorded webinar via YouTube)

Social Media Today has a story about LinkedIn Learning
In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco WebEx and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.

LinkedIn Learning has a ton of resources too about learning Google Analytics, Digital Marketing trends, Excel, etc.

Remote Resources by Facebook Education
If you’re looking for reliable content to share with your members on the prevention of coronavirus, or dealing with anxiety surrounding the virus, we’ve compiled some helpful information from leading health authorities.

Lynn Chang, Owner of Career Zen where East meets West in her approach to helping people with their Career Journeys.

  • 20 minutes of restorative yoga is equivalent to a 2-hr nap. Doing this everyday can improve your mindset and wellbeing. Waterfall pose. You can find other yoga and meditation videos from the Career Zen YouTube channel. Leandra Blei Photography filmed and edited the meditation ones!
  • I wrote The 10 Day Career Cleanse to help us during stressful, chaotic times at work. Through inner zen and harmony, we can more easily tap into creativity and innovation for our businesses. Jessica Hagemann of Cider Spoon Stories (Austin-based owner) was my editor!
  • Need some extra money now? Remote Side Hustles, Work from home jobs through Rat Race Rebellion, Disaster Unemployment Assistance for small businesses. I’ll have more resources and special offerings to share as we go. Here’s my FB business page for reference.
  • Remember that your path to success is naturally paved with unexpected twists and turns. Stay focused on your vision and use your talents to better the world!

Sonya Strattman (Austin-based owner)
Success Strategist for Women in Business
Creator of Women in the Business Arena podcast and program

  • Sonya will have several podcast episodes on dealing with the current environment starting next week. Look up Women in the Business Arena on your favorite podcast app or visit: https://sonyastattmann.com/listen
  • She also has some very specific episodes on topics that will support you during these times.
    1. 3-part series on Navigating business with kids off of school, with illness, etc. Episodes 110-112 starting here.
    2. Overcoming fear EP105.
    3. The Inevitability of Discomfort and How to Move through it EP127.
    4. Deconstructing Stress EP134.
    5. Facing Discouragement & Rising Again EP132.
  • For those in a service business, she has a quick quiz that can help you determine where to focus your attention right now for the most results. Sonya also has accompanying training for each result.
  • Women’s Facebook group called Women in the Business Arena (same as the podcast). You are welcome to join and ask me her questions.

Ruoyun Xu Killian (Austin-based owner)
Founder of C3Nami, a Digital Marketing Agency.

  • Her company is currently working on potentially offering free 20 min advice calls to see how they can support people more on an individual level, but you can always email her, and she will do her best to answer questions.
  • Article about twitters advice on how to adjust your tone during these times.
  • Facebook hub for small businesses.
  • Official City of Austin website.
  • CDC website
  • We here at The American Genius feel the struggles of this time, we hear hundreds of stories each week and know it can be scary living in such uncertainty. We share these resources not only to help you through these hard times, but to show that others are working on, around, and through the problems along side you.

    This list is mostly centered around businesses but the more important element in all of this is you. Take care of yourself and business will return to normal, so wash your hands, stay away from others for the time being, and maybe you can actually catch up on that sleep you’ve been lacking for years.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Business News

Coca Cola drops 200 brands, most you’ve never heard of

(BUSINESS NEWS) Coca Cola hopes to revitalize their drink arsenal by rolling back some “underperforming” brands (that you might not have known they were still making.)

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Woman drinking Coca Cola against plain wall

2020 has forced a lot of businesses to return to their proverbial drawing boards, and the Coca Cola Company is no exception. Last week, Coca Cola announced in a corporate blog post that they are halting the production of 200 of their beverage brands.

In the words of Cath Coetzer, the head of global marketing for Coca Cola, the restructuring will “accelerate [Coke’s] transformation into a total beverage company”.

“We’re prioritizing bets that have scale potential across beverage categories, consumer need states and drinking occasions,” Coetzer added. “Because scale is the algorithm that truly drives growth.”

That’s… a surprising amount of technical beverage jargon, Cath.

Coca Cola is already the leading manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks on the planet. It’s hard to imagine their scope becoming any more “total.” But this strategy shift comes as the consumer thirst for soda is drying up.

Soda consumption has steadily fallen over the last ten consecutive years, thanks to a swath of modern studies that link excess sugar intake with negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In light of this research, regional sales taxes on drinks with added sugar have been debated across the country, despite aggressive corporate lobbying against it. All this has meant that beverage companies have had no choice but to pivot hard.

Take Odwalla, a Coca Cola brand that touted its vitamin content and servings of produce, which was discontinued earlier this year. Despite being marketed as a health brand, Odwalla flavors contained whopping amounts of added sugar: Their popular “superfood” flavor quietly boasted 47 grams per bottle.

The brands affected by Coke’s recent soda cull also include TAB diet soda, ZICO coconut water, and Coca Cola Life, plus internationally marketed drink brands like Vegibeta of Japan and Kuat of Brazil.

Condensing their portfolio allows Coca Cola to prioritize their most profitable products and invest in more new beverage trendsetters that better fit the times, like sparkling water, coffee, or even cannabis-infused products.

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Business News

Uber and Lyft face the music as employee ruling is upheld

(BUSINESS NEWS) The battle for Uber and Lyft drivers’ status continues, and despite company protests, the official ruling has been upheld.

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Interior of Uber and Lyft rideshare looking out on palm trees

A gig economy has its pros and cons. For anyone who has ever been an independent contractor, done freelance work, or worked for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, the pros are clear – you get to work when you want, where you want and how much you want. Flexibility and gigs go hand in hand.

And the cons? Well, those are a little more complex. Without a W2 linking you directly to the company, you as an independent contractor don’t receive the same rights and perks that your 9-5 employee friends might. For example, your employer is not required to provide a healthcare option for you. You are also not entitled to earned time off or minimum wage.

So which is better?

The gig economy conundrum has made its way all the way to an appellate court in California last week. The ruling was that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees.

Back in May, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from L.A., San Diego and San Francisco brought forth a lawsuit that argues Uber and Lyft gain an unfair, unlawful competitive advantage by not classifying their workers as W2s.

Uber and Lyft responded to the suit, stating that if they were to reclassify their drivers as employees, their companies would be irreparably harmed – though the judge in last week’s ruling negated that claim, stating that neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and also that the financial burden of converting workers to employees “do[es] not rise to the level of irreparable harm.” Essentially, the judge called their BS.

Additionally, according to the judge, there is nothing that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers – and they have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees (the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit was decided in 2018). Seems fair to me!

However, there is an oppositional proposition on the ballot that muddies the waters. Proposition 22, if passed, is a measure that would keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors, meaning that those workers from Uber and Lyft would be exempt from the new state law that classifies them as W-2 employees. And you might be surprised to know how many of the app-based rideshare workers are in favor of Prop 22!

In a class-action lawsuit, Uber has been accused of encouraging drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app. It appears, unfortunately, that Uber is manipulating its workforce by wrongly hanging their jobs over their heads.

On this matter, Gig Workers Rising stated: “If Uber and Lyft are successful in passing Prop. 22 and undo the will of the people, they will inspire countless other corporations to adapt their business models and misclassify workers in order to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of their workforce.”

Ultimately, the fate of California Uber and Lyft driver’s in still in question. It’s unclear if the question we should be asking is, will Lyft drivers have proper healthcare through their jobs or will they have jobs at all. All of this is occurring at a time where millions are jobless and 158,000 individuals sought unemployment support this week due to COVID-19 layoffs.

Personally, I have little sympathy for tech-giants that rake in billions off the backs of the exploited working-class. If the CEO of Uber is an ostentatious billionaire, then his employees should have health insurance. Clear and simple.

The scariest part of the gig economy is that workers have become increasingly happy to work for a company that gives them little to no benefits. More companies are dissolving or combining positions so that they can further bypass their responsibilities to their employees. Let us not be fooled: The dispute over whether or not to make Uber and Lyft workers W2 employees does not affect the health of the companies themselves. What it will affect is how fat the bonuses will be the big guys at the top, and that’s exactly why the companies are so adverse to the ruling. They’d rather their workers suffer than lose a single dime.

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Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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