FGCU colleges collaborate on ‘RESTART SWFL’ initiative to restore consumer confidence

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Leaders at two of Florida Gulf Coast University’s colleges will unite to help companies restart operations to get businesses going again amid pandemic recovery.

At Jason’s Deli, sanitation is key for Diana Willis, co-owner of Jason’s Deli of Southwest Florida franchise.

“We follow very high safety standards as a general rule. We started immediately cleaning and sanitizing everything to the nth degree,” Willis explained.

Not only do employees wear masks and gloves, but everything gets wiped down regularly.

Like many businesses, Willis said her restaurants have taken a huge hit during the pandemic. “It just really took down sales from, you know, normal sales to about 90% down … We had empty dining rooms so what do you do — you clean.”

As more businesses begin to reopen, FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business Dean Chris Westley said one of the biggest challenges will be winning back consumer confidence.

That’s why the university launched a new initiative called RESTART SWFL, a collaboration between the college of business and Marieb College of Health & Human Services.

Westley said they “will launch a series of free web-based discussions led by experts at Lutgert and Marieb. Along with community leaders, these will assist businesses in complying with new standards in hygiene and best practices for business.”

Those who take two free classes from FGCU and take a pledge will receive a seal to let customers know they’re practicing safe hygiene.

It’s a big benefit for Ivane Severe, who just re-opened Severe Beauty Salon.

“I’ve got to rebuild clients,” Severe said. “I’ve got to rebuild money, I’ve got to rebuild the business again.”

Additionally, RESTART SWFL features an expanded FGCU Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Studies show that two-fifths of businesses forced to close because of a disaster never reopen. To help businesses regain their footing and thrive, the SBDC offers a range of services that include recovery plan assistance, cybersecurity training, risk assessment and other invaluable tools at little to no cost. The SBDC recently added staff members in anticipation of greater need.

For additional information about RESTART SWFL, panel discussion schedules, RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence registration and other COVID-19 resources, visit FGCU.edu/restart.

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