For years, education institutions have worked in mutually beneficial ecosystems with local vendors. In college towns across the country, colleges and universities serve as economic drivers with immense purchasing power. Small-to-medium-sized-businesses (SMBs), knitted into the fabric of these education communities, need support now more than ever before.
Forty-five per cent of business have experienced disruption in the supply chain and fifty-one per cent of small businesses said they had suffered negative effects as a result of the pandemic (According to the United States Census Bureau – The Small Business Pulse Survey – As of May 2020).
SMBs have experienced pressures both in supply and demand. They have struggled with issues like payroll, absent staff, shortage in supply, loss of footfall and demand. Procurement teams are assisting their local partners in myriad ways.
- Higher education leaders, including procurement teams, have reached out more consistently to community members, among them, local vendors.
- They are sharing knowledge, providing updates, and collaborating to meet urgent student and community requirements.
- Regular talks have taken place via online conference calls and updates occur via local media and podcasts.
- Colleges and universities have featured local vendors on their website to encourage direct purchasing.
- At a time when workers are no longer tied to cities, many college towns are encouraging relocation, citing cheaper rent and greener spaces. Some institutions have even offered free access to their online libraries.
- Local restaurants have been supported through the promotion of home food delivery apps on college campuses.
- Colleges and universities have partnered with local vendors to work on solutions, share goods and resources, and aid logistical difficulties.
- Unused physical space has been offered to healthcare workers and local governments.
- Colleges and universities are helping local vendors apply for government funding, loans, and grants.
Resources and education
- Some colleges are offering education programs designed to help SMBs learn how to adjust pricing models and cost structure to make up for lost income.
- Free business workshops, counselling, consulting, webinars and loan application services have been offered.
- A group of business programs created a Small Business School Challenge where students were paired with businesses to help them with their challenges.
- Businesses students, in particular, have volunteered their time working for SMBs or providing business advice.
- Stanford Graduate School of Business students launched a platform called Giftcard Bank, which sells gift cards from SMBs.
Procurement & Storeroom
- Procurement has worked closely with SMBs to meet new requirements for home delivery.
- Local vendors have been featured on electronic procurement marketplaces.
- Physical storerooms have been transferred online for better management, greater visibility of stock, and more timely delivery.
With a shared understanding that communities matter, education institutions that have worked in close collaboration with their stakeholders have always performed better. This has never been more true than in these past difficult months.