Anatomy Of A Comeback by Jon O’Connell
Helen Lavelle spotted the local economic storm approaching as it swirled on the other side of the planet. Italy alarmed her most. Before COVID-19 sunk its teeth in the United States, it showed its strength in Italy. It utterly froze community pockets and regional markets that reminded her of home. Lavelle, President and Founder of Lavelle Strategy Group, has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with NEPA business leaders for 35 years. She also chaired the American Advertising Federation Council of Governors and helped her industry’s 50,000 member companies navigate through crises — including 9/11. She’s seen what disasters can do to small businesses, and the pandemic was shaping up to be one of the biggest yet. She had to do something.
Six months after the coronavirus gripped the United States, Boost Business NEPA emerged. It’s a herculean networking endeavor that brings together the region’s top minds in creative marketing and finance as well as new and traditional media to lift up small businesses. “While our friends in the health care industry have been working to save lives, there’s been a whole group of us who have been working to save livelihoods,” Lavelle said. “We believe that every business deserves to be given a shot.” Boost’s mission is as grand and complex as the NEPA business community it serves, so let’s break down how it works.
At the top, Boost Business NEPA is a website. Visitors have two options. They can offer their services and add strands to the cable that binds us all together. Those in need find the bankers or consultants to tackle their specific problems. Eligible business owners, who lead companies with one to 20 employees, go through a simple vetting process and put a little skin in the game through testimonials and personal stories – more on that later. Everyone who joins becomes part of the Boost community. Boost is recruiting helpers, especially those who did not suffer to the same degree as, for example, small restaurant or boutique owners. In any good initiative, recruiting also happens organically, through personal contacts, through conversations. It’s happening now as the inaugural team hoists aboard others who have the right tools and the capacity to use them. “I believe that everyone has something to give here,” Lavelle said.
At its core, Boost is a network of neighbors. Members of this rich community should know about it when their neighbors struggle to pay rent or utility bills. We should bury competition in the name of collaboration. Our survival depends on it. “We’re making it comfortable to say: ‘I’m desperately in trouble here,’” Lavelle said. Boost’s leadership team includes local bank executives, powerful resources in their own right for steering funding to where it’s needed most, charitable foundations and local government officials. Media figures, business development experts, health care leaders and educators have all joined in, too.
Stories surround and surge through everything that Boost does. Some of them are short or half-baked. They come from conversations between people like Sandy Cameli, a Boost leadership team member, accountant and president of SAC Empowerment LLC, and Beth Ann Zero, a Dunmore gift shop and gallery owner whose cash flow evaporated when lockdown began, but who stuck it out and rose from the dust. They come as hurried video chat check-ins with Fermín Díaz, the main street coordinator for the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, whose webcam cuts in and out while people bustle in the background behind him, but who gushes through the static about the resolve in his community. In the beginning, as Lavelle was taking the local temperature for such a project, she called Holly Pilcavage, a kindred marketing maven and Chief Executive Officer at Coal Creative in Wilkes-Barre. The two would-be business rivals had worked closely for years and joined forces to get Boost off the ground. “It’s truly arms wide open,” Pilcavage said. “We are using the power of the media to help get these stories told right.” In the same spirit, traditional media companies including print, radio, television and outdoor leaped at the chance to share the stories Boost uncovers, most notably the TV stations who, again, would otherwise be locked in competition. “With all of our television networks, it was an immediate: ‘Yes. How can we help?’” Lavelle said.
In the pandemic’s earliest days, business coalitions rushed to build toolkits for anyone slogging through financial meltdown. They put together massive resource banks and organized webinars on finding capital and procuring personal protective equipment. They crafted promise campaigns so consumers would know their favorite shops and eateries pledged to keep them safe. Boost is not trying to undermine any of those essential initiatives. Instead, Boost builds on their progress and amplifies them. But part of our community, especially the smallest business owners, still stumbles in confusion. Boost cuts through it, connects people directly to the help that they need and then shares inspiring stories to invigorate the small business community, the backbone of our local economy.
“Thank you to all who have joined forces to help our business community at this critical time. We are most grateful for your support.” – Mayor George Brown, City of Wilkes-Barre
“Scranton Tomorrow is all about partnerships and collaboration, so Boost Business NEPA is a perfect fit for us…excited to be part of this effort!!!” – Leslie Collins, Scranton Tomorrow
“This is exactly what our business community needs…a boost! The people, the companies, the media, who have stepped up will surely make a difference.” – Fermín Díaz, Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.