The business community continues to face struggles as many stay closed during the COVID-19 crisis, making it difficult for entrepreneurs across St. Joseph.

Many in the process of starting businesses have had to halt further progress due to the uncertain future. However, the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Western and Cup of Joe are providing advice and resources to help them move in a positive direction.

Annette Weeks, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, said one of the hardest aspects for entrepreneurs is having to make difficult decisions in a short period of time.

“They’re having to pivot to survive, and some of them have moved quickly and others are slower coming to the realization of the extent of this,” Weeks said.

Weeks said entrepreneurs typically are up for a challenge and are used to dealing with the unknown, but this situation is unprecedented.

“We talk about having a business plan and making sure it’s set for the what-ifs, but this happened so quickly there were no what-ifs in this,” Weeks said.

Weeks said all of the people she’s worked with have had to adapt their business models and operations to continue bringing in revenue to be able to stay open.

“Now it’s identifying what your basic financial responsibilities are, because that is the goal, then, that you have to meet in order to survive,” Weeks said.

Cup of Joe, which meets regularly every Wednesday, moved to Facebook Live on April 1 to continue providing counsel to those who need it.

“We also created a Facebook group called Entrepreneurs of Western Missouri, and they’re able to ask each other questions and support each other through that,” Weeks said.

Wendy Lilly, owner of Unique Unicorn, has been working for years on her business and was in the process of finding a place to set up, but she had to make the decision to pause operations. Lilly’s business is centered around offering plants and seasonal items, and now she is struggling getting inventory due to the concern of contamination.

“The majority of the tropicals were coming from Florida and there was a place in Kansas City that I was going to get plants from, but I’ve heeded the warnings to make sure I’m not doing something that spreads the coronavirus,” Lilly said.

Lilly has been in close contact with Weeks to work out the best plan financially for her business moving forward.

“In the back of my mind kind of spikes a question: Should I be buying a building right now and I need to make sure I’m making the right decisions for my family, but it’s putting that business on hold,” Lilly said.

Weeks and Lilly have both been amazed by the support the community has provided to small business owners and entrepreneurs across St. Joseph, and they hope that continues.

“I want the entrepreneurs to know they’re not in this alone and there’s support for them,” Weeks said.

Cup of Joe is planning to offer its regular meetings every Wednesday via Facebook until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

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Bailey Ketcham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: NPNowKetcham

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