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Brick-and-mortars might just be the hardest hit group of businesses during this COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downtown—and Salem-based MainVest is here to help. The new company, launched in 2018, recently began their Main Street initiative, aimed at helping brick-and-mortars impacted by COVID-19.

MainVest cofounder Nick Mathews, a Topsfield native, founded MainVest after a six-year stint at Uber in Boston, training him in building local marketplaces. Mathews never intended to start a company designed to help businesses during a crisis, “but we do find that we end up being a pretty strong solution,” he said, “and now we really want to do everything we can to offer support.” Unprecedented problems call for unprecedented solutions.

The Main Street initiative helps brick-and-mortar businesses earn a $2,000 zero-interest loan. Businesses must launch a capital raise on MainVest, and those who qualify may be eligible for the zero-interest loan. Not only will the business receive the $2,000 cash infusion, but they’ll also be launching an investment campaign giving them the opportunity to receive thousands more in community investment.

“Alongside that [$2,000 loan], businesses are setting up investment campaigns so they have a vehicle to go to the community and raise capital—they’re not just set up for the next few weeks, but they’re set up for the next few months or even longer,” said Mathews, who likens these investment campaigns to Kickstarters. 

Mathews hopes MainVest can give businesses a bit of breathing room to figure out what their next steps might be, while also setting them up for future success. “These businesses are switching from slow growth to survival mode within a week,” he said. He hopes the Main Street initiative will help companies cover some immediate costs while giving them “a chance to calm down.”

The MainVest team is also offering virtual office hours for small business owners in need of advice. For starters, Mathews offers these three tips for companies during uncertain times.

Improving cash flow

According to Mathews, zeroing in on cash flow should be the number one priority of small businesses. Since smaller businesses don’t have tons of extra capital in their bank accounts, he said, they have to be “super cognizant of all of the outflows they’re spending money on, whether it’s rent, employee costs, insurance, and scaling back to make sure they have resilience through this cycle.”

Seeking capital terms for the ebb and flow of economic uncertainty

Right now, businesses have to be prepared to ride this storm out. Mathews encourages companies to find ways to shore up capital. “When it comes down to it, you have to have money on hand to be paying for those fixed costs, or else you’re not going to be able to survive,” he said. “You’re gonna have to make sure that you’re prepared to hunker down.”

Continuing to market to customers

In a normal recession, companies are urged to still reach out to customers, encouraging them to come into the store and support the business. “The pandemic creates additional challenges,” said Mathews. “There are less options to actually be generating revenue.” That’s where MainVest comes in, providing a vehicle for businesses to go to their communities and to seek local investment.

Though MainVest services the whole Eastern Seaboard, they’re focused right now on New England, and making sure our local brick-and-mortars have the tools to survive the coming economic downturn.

“We hope to be a resource for small business owners as they prepare for the worst, and hope for the best,” said Mathews. “We also expect that in this polarized climate, communities can finally come together and ensure that their local economies are strong and cohesive in the face of economic downturn.”

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