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Shidler College of Business graduate Evan Leong’s two Honolulu businesses were thriving in early 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leong’s business consulting company and bubble tea business took major hits. Instead of focusing on his companies, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa alumnus shifted his efforts to assist dozens of other Hawaiʻi businesses during the crisis.

The 2005 executive MBA (EMBA) graduate sought the help of other community leaders to get the word out about the federal government’s $2 trillion CARES Act economic relief package for small businesses. Save Hawaiʻi Jobs and Businesses launched a webinar series and updated memos focused on helping employers understand and navigate the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan initiatives. The free webinars featured experts, who have dedicated countless hours to the project.

This effort helped Hawaiʻi companies obtain more than $2 billion of PPP funds, which ranks fourth nationwide for loan amount as a percentage of eligible payroll.

Leong’s effort is just one example of Shidler graduates helping the community survive the battle against COVID-19. Others include alumni starting a new organization to provide personal protective equipment, serving the community with telehealth services and offering free resources for workplace best practices and networking support.

Calling Shidler alumni

Besides sharing stories from its alumni, the college is also connecting people in need with businesses that can help.

Through its new COVID-19 resource, Shidler on the Frontline, the college is gathering information from alumni, stakeholders and businesses. Shidler alumni and stakeholders are asked to participate in a survey to help the college better assist them. Businesses still open, working on the COVID-19 front lines and in need of volunteers are asked to complete this form to be featured.

UH alumni who own small businesses are also invited to be a part of an online directory aimed to spread awareness of the products these businesses have to offer.

“We launched Shidler on the Frontline to help our community stay connected as we adapt to new working and living conditions during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Vance Roley, dean of the Shidler College of Business. “We are using the website as a tool for us to collect inspirational stories of our alumni and business community doing amazing things out in the community, and to share resources such as webinars and professional development opportunities. We are also creating a job bank of available positions, and we hope these efforts will help keep the public informed.”

—By Marc Arakaki