Wichita State receives $1 million in funding to assist local small businesses

  • The Small Business Digital Transformation Program aims to help small businesses with technology.
  • Wichita State's Office of Innovation and New Ventures and the Center for Entrepreneurship will lead the program.
  • The SBDT focuses on pandemic-related recovery, digital transformation, training and implementation.

The City of Wichita has announced the award of $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support Wichita State University’s Office of Innovation and New Ventures formation of the Small Business Digital Transformation (SBDT) Program, which will address technology gaps in the local business ecosystem.

Small businesses were hit hardest during the pandemic. A vast majority of small businesses are in-person businesses with storefronts that sell food or merchandise or are service industries where there is significant face-to-face interaction. Most of these businesses were unable to operate as normal during the pandemic, and many were forced to shut down.

“If these businesses had access to tech talent and resources to shift to a digital platform, they not only could have survived but possibly thrived and competed against large corporations that had the financial means to pivot to digital quickly” said Dr. Jeremy Patterson, executive director of Office of Innovation and New Ventures.

The program will focus on pandemic-related issues, adoption of digital transformation in customer-centric business and the establishment of a support system to overcome educational and cultural barriers to adopt digital business tools.

Over the past two years, analysis done by the Office of Innovation and New Ventures identified access to technology as a core need of many small businesses.

In response to this need, the Small Business Digital Transformation Program created a four-week training program for business owners designed to streamline workflow with a focus on issues that emerged from the pandemic such as conversion to online sales and tracking digital sales and growth.

The Small Business Digital Transformation Program will also contribute to building a talent development pipeline for tech trained employees by connecting students from Wichita State University in applied learning experiences within the companies.

“We are rethinking nearly every element of instruction to deliver a program that builds business resiliency while connecting and embedding students from across campus into this real-world application with the goal of ultimately filling local job demands,” Patterson said. “We are grateful to the City of Wichita for the award of these ARPA funds that will be invested in helping us meet these challenges.”

Wichita State students hired as digital navigators will help businesses design a digital-integration plan and will help implement specific technology to boost efficiency.

“Long-term, the hope is that it will allow the businesses to be more successful and to grow,” said Troy Tabor, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “This is the way for the university to bring these small businesses up to speed – it will raise all ships.”

The Wichita State University Office of Innovation and New Ventures (INV) is housed under the Office of the Provost & Senior Vice President. INV is where academics and industry converge delivering programming around innovation, education, venture creation, and making connections to support WSU and regional startups and businesses.

For more information on the Wichita State University Office of Innovation and New Ventures and the Small Business Digital Transformation (SBDT) Program contact Jeremy Patterson at 316-978-3786 or jeremy.patterson@wichita.edu.

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