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PROGRESS 2021: Granting a path to the future

In an ever changing world, businesses are either keeping up or closing shop.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this past year, Impact Austin stepped up to give assistance to local businesses, while also teaching them new ways to get their products to the public.

Matt Steiner, who is the co-owner of Aurora Web Solutions, used his experience in web development to help at least five area businesses get their business online.

“Even before COVID, your website can very much be like your storefront,” Steiner said. “It’s an extension of your business, so it’s important to have a nice looking site, especially in a time like COVID, where there is a good chance that people will not be able to come to your location. In times like this, the web site becomes your storefront.”

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Steiner has worked with companies like Hastings Shoes and K’Nyaw Grocery to help them sell their products online. The world of e-commerce is not only useful during COVID-19 shutdowns, it also opens companies’ products to a larger audience.

A good website will draw customers in and boost income for any business.

“You want to make it look nice,” Steiner said. “It is an extension of your brand, so try to have something that you’re proud of that does what you want.”

Steiner’s work came courtesy of multiple Micro Grants that were offered by Impact Austin this past fall. The grants covered projects of up to $2,500 and a total of $26,500 was available through the CARES Act, Mower County and the Developmental Corporation of Austin.

Mary Anne Duren, who is the Coordinator for Impact Austin, said the Micro Grants were crucial for all businesses during the pandemic.

“Everyone was still in survival mode and we wanted to help businesses get through when times are tough. We helped businesses with a variety of needs,” Duren said. “Everyone has been super thankful for this and it’s kind of just what they needed. We had way more applicants than we were able to fund and that was the only unfortunate thing. But we were able to help quite a few businesses and get them what they need.”

Besides the website work that Steiner offered, Impact Austin was able to provide outdoor seating for Tendermaid and new cabinets for Twice As Nice.

There was also a big boost in Impact Austin’s gift card program and the activity increased on the Eat. Drink. Shop. Austin Facebook page.

“There is a big push towards supporting local businesses,” Duren said. “The community has really rallied behind us as an organization and helping small businesses. Keep shopping local. Businesses need us to help them at this time.”