CEP Grant is supported with $5 million from the county’s allotment of funding from the CARES Act, enables qualified business to apply for up to $10,000
County’s small business owners begin expressing relief, gratitude for seamless application process leading up to grant fund distributions intended to bridge the gap during COVID-19 recovery and reopening
Baltimore, Md. – In collaboration with the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation (AAEDC), the digital-first integrated marketing agency Vitamin® has designed, developed, managed and launched an online application for the county’s Small Business Customer and Employee Protection Grant Program (CEP). The CEP enables qualified small businesses to apply for up to $10,000 for the reimbursement or purchase of products and services that can help them pivot their business as the economy reopens and implement safety measures for customers and employees.
When the CEP application opened on June 3, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman stated, “This pandemic has severely impacted our business community which has had to make immediate changes in their operations just to survive. These grants aim to help local businesses put in place best practices to keep their workforce and customers safe as well as create new channels for customer engagement and sales opportunities.”
The CEP Grant Program is supported with $5 million from the county’s allotment of funding from the CARES Act and is managed by the AAEDC.
The online application’s reliability and ease of use has proven to be instrumental to its success and as a result will help hundreds of business owners to get a foothold in the post-COVID-19 economy.
“We needed a team that could get this right from the start, and that’s exactly what Vitamin did.” says Rosa Cruz, AAEDC’s vice president of communications. “This is the third time Vitamin has provided a form-based system for our users to access programs and funds available, and each project has been a complete success. Vitamin went to work immediately over the course of nights, weekends and days to meet the deadline and ensure businesses would be able to access reliably when we threw the switch.”
Since the application went live the Anne Arundel business community has expressed tremendous gratitude for how easy it has been to navigate the application process and AAEDC’s responsiveness to each inquiry.
“Most businesses need income to make these changes, but cannot open to make the income without doing so, said Sarah McCready, Catering Manager at The Grill at Quarterfield. “So this grant will allow many businesses, including ours, to take the next step and remain a large part of the community we are all so proud of.”
Marie Bittinger, owner of Red Lotus Float Spa said, “This experience is by far the most efficient and streamlined I have experienced through this entire COVID19 debacle. I appreciate this more than can be expressed in words.”
Vitamin was tasked with making the application process as seamless as possible with an emphasis on functionality and reliability. Knowing that many of the nation’s first online PPP application interfaces were difficult to maneuver, unstable, and riddled with technical challenges, Vitamin was careful to ensure AAEDC’s site avoided the same pitfalls and allowed users to quickly and reliably apply and submit.
“This is one of the most important projects we’ve ever been a part of,” says Vitamin founder Mike Karfakis. “These grants could mean the difference between a business’ survival or closing, so the user experience had to be exemplary. We’re hyper aware of the challenges many banks and businesses have had in managing the development of application systems in recent months, so when AAEDC approached us about this project, we jumped at the opportunity to help address and avoid the pitfalls others have wrestled with.
Karfakis noted Vitamin’s keen focus in planning, which included special considerations for server load and the ability to quickly ramp in real time. Document file size and the ability to jump in and out of the application were other important features to maintain an easeful user experience, allowing users to open and close browser windows with progress saves happening in the background. Email receipts with confirmation numbers were also included in the application features.
Vitamin’s relationship with premier outside partners also played a significant role in the expedited development and implementation of the CEP grant application system. DataBank’s managed service’s team has worked with the agency on numerous highly scalable and compliant infrastructure projects and was able to immediately spin up and implement an elaborate PCI-compliant, cloud-based solution on three day’s notice.
“When Vitamin explained the critical nature of the project, I knew it was an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of thousands of Marylanders,” says Vlad Friedman, DataBank CTO. “Businesses are desperately looking for help and the first step starts with the application. If it failed, so could that person’s business. Having worked with Vitamin many times before, we knew exactly how to get this project underway quickly, knowing we’d receive the swift and quality communication we’d need to be successful together.”
Vitamin began working with AAEDC in 2016 on a digital project for the organization’s new website. Since then, the agency has provided several additional technology solutions, website maintenance, public relations support, and press tour orchestration, while continuing to provide expert counsel whenever needed.
Additional information and access to the application are on the CEP grant page. Business owners needing additional assistance should send their questions by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vitamin® is the “Cure for the Common Brand®,” a full-service, digital-first agency providing clients with high-quality, process-driven deliverables within the disciplines of branding, website design and development, SEO/SEM, media & advertising, print, public relations, and social media. Founded in 2002, the Baltimore-based agency specializes in integrated, deeply branded experiences that define clients and bring their unique differences to life with a focus on inbound lead generation and lead nurturing. Vertical expertise includes banking, built environment, commercial real estate, financial services, healthcare & human services, manufacturing, and non-profit market sectors. Vitamin is a certified MBE/DBE/SBE by the Maryland DOT.
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