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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ross


They say "it takes a village".... while the proverb may be talking about raising a child, at our office we believe the same is true for running a small business. It takes a support you, guide you, help you learn lessons, share success and failures, and so much more.

When the pandemic "hit" in March, our first reaction on how to be strong, supportive members of that "village" was to promote 'shop local' and share information about how local businesses were operating - but that quickly became ineffective as regulations became stricter and stricter on business operations.

Shortly thereafter we came up with a better idea which thankfully received full support from several of our philanthropic partners - the Randolph J. & Estelle M. Dorn Foundation and the Erie County Community Foundation. With their support we developed the RISE Small Business Innovation Grant. The grant was designed to provided a bit of extra needed financial support to small businesses that were adapting to changing health and safety regulations, while doing everything they could to continue to manage a successful business operation.

Today we'll spotlight six of the RISE Small Business Innovation Grant recipients. These companies in the health and wellness industry had to think on their feet and make significant operating changes to hold onto their customers and keep them safe.

1. CrossFit Sandusky

Immediately upon receiving shutdown orders, CrossFit Sandusky thoughtfully took the initiative to suspend memberships. They also began renting equipment to their members to workout from home. It's just not the same though....thankfully in May gyms were permitted to reopen and CrossFit continued to keep their members top of mind, partnering with Hybrid Athlete Foundation to become a 24/7 gym. Members were able to reserve open gym times at any time of day outside of class times.

2. Functional Fitness for Life

Owned and operated by personal trainer Barb Biltz, pre-pandemic Functional Fitness for Life specialized in classes and personal training on-site at gyms and fitness facilities. The pandemic made that totally impossible. With a clientele of primarily older individuals

who need specialized exercise programming that takes into account their individual abilities and limitations, Barb had to think fast. She quickly began using Facebook Live, Facetime, and Zoom to work one on one with clients. It sounds easy, but the learning curve and physical adjustments for the older adults was no small task. Not to mention the added insurance and other precautions necessary for the business owner.

3. Integrated Therapeutic Healing

Similar to Trainer Biltz, Integrated Therapeutic Healing was delivering their physical therapy and healing services in-person. Due to the medical nature of physical therapy services, owner Patty Abrigo had to quickly find affordable HIPAA compliant software to continue serving clients.

4. North Shore Running Store

For North Shore Running Store the pandemic couldn't have hit at a worse time. In the height of high school track season and entering road race and outdoor running season, suddenly people couldn't leave the house. The shop got creative offering curbside pickup and custom fittings by appointment. They also got their creative juices flowing and ran a "Running the Front Lines" promotion to provide proper footwear to frontline and healthcare workers.

5. Open Way Yoga

"Breathe in, breathe out" isn't quite the same when you have a mask on. As a health-centered business, Open Way Yoga has taken pandemic restrictions very seriously, immediately pivoting to online, live-streamed classes. They also offered free community support classes such as Self-Care Practices for Stay-at-Home, Eye Exercises for Excessive Screen Time, Get the Wiggles Out for kids stuck at home, etc. As regulation allowed, Open Way Yoga began partnering with Cities to offer outdoor programming.

6. Therapy Pros

A young and ambitious physical therapy and pain management practice, Therapy Pros wasted no time in ensuring clients could receive needed healthcare during these turbulent times. Rearranging their physical space, implementing new tools for no-touch service, and adding telehealth to their practice enabled this group to stay in business during the pandemic.

While it seems all we've thought about in 2020 is our health, it's stories like these that remind us that our health is so much more than just COVID. ECEDC is proud to work with these innovative and responsive businesses that understand the many aspects of physical health as well as mental health, financial health, and community health. Congratulations on your hard work these last months!


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