Shipping delays. Product shortages. Changing consumer demands. Throughout the pandemic, businesses have had to adapt. While large international businesses often have the tools and resources to innovate and adjust, small businesses have struggled to survive. In fact, nearly one year into the pandemic, a whopping 88% of small businesses hadn’t returned to pre-pandemic level of sales. By the fall of 2021, about half of small business owners have been unable to invest more in their companies. And a disproportionate number of those small businesses affected have been ones run by women and people of color.
But with innovative technologies and online tools, small businesses may be able to recover and continue to grow within today’s competitive digital marketplace. Take digital payments: the majority of shoppers said they’d prefer contactless payments just as much or even more after the COVID-19 vaccine was widely available. Recognizing the importance of digital technology to small businesses, last year Visa made the commitment to digitally enable 50 million small businesses worldwide.
In addition to this commitment, Visa is also supporting small businesses in a number of ways, including providing online resource centers, programs to encourage consumers to shop local, and street teams that share new point-of-sale materials, all facilitated by Visa. By enabling businesses to access and use a wider array of digital tools, Visa is helping small businesses become more flexible, enabling them to meet and serve customers wherever they may be, and however they may wish to shop.
Inequitable access to financial investments is another major challenge facing small businesses. For example in 2019, businesses with women-only founders received just two percent of all venture capital dollars. Visa has committed more than $1 million in hyperlocal grants, many to minority small businesses owners in disproportionately impacted U.S. cities.
While the pandemic has created crises for small businesses globally, it has also exacerbated pre-existing challenges. To address these broader challenges, Visa Foundation launched the Equitable Access Initiative in April 2020, a $200 million strategic commitment to support gender diverse and inclusive small and micro businesses around the world. As part of the initiative, Visa Foundation is deploying $60 million in grants and $140 million impact investments with a gender and diversity lens.
Enhanced access to digital capabilities and valuable resources can empower small businesses — particularly ones helmed by women and people of color — to remain open and competitive in their communities and global online marketplaces.