“The one thing that I noticed when I became the Vice Chairmen of Membership at the Pasadena Chamber was that we had a lot of small businesses that would open up and then, next thing you know, they were struggling. We need to reach out to our small and medium-sized businesses because that is our economy.”
“It’s really very very good when we see so many people show up, because they are giving up an hour and a half of their professional time to help this other business. And this is all free. “
“A lot of it is getting out of your head, and realizing if I want to keep this business going, if I want to the doors open then I need to listen to these different ideas and make sure that it works. If not, then pivot and figure out a way to continue to keep it open.”
“At the end of the meeting, I tell them if you haven’t received an invitation to the hot seat, then let me have your business card and you’ll be invited. And I make it clear that that’s all they are going to receive from me. I’m not going to spam them I’m not going to hit them up for every other event I can think of. It’s all about B4B and helping people.”
“Right now, we are in the discussion part where we’re trying to figure out how we can help more people. Helping 12 [businesses] is great, but I know we can do more.”
What is Joan De Souza’s Business4Business About?
Joan De Souza was at the LA Times for many years but eventually decided to do some things on her own.
When she took on the position of Vice Chairmen of Membership at the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, she noticed many new small businesses would quickly begin struggling. She discovered how important these small and medium-sized businesses are to the economy and wanted to help.
Essentially, Business4Business is a think tank of sorts. Businesses come to Joan with many issues, whether it be to pivot their business or just to keep their doors open.
What they do is put the business owner in the hot seat, and they are interviewed to get the details that they need help with. Then, Joan puts out a zoom invitation to her database from different chambers, and these business people come to the call and assist the individual.
Where Does Joan Find the Businesses?
Joan’s connections to all of the different chambers assist in aggregating business owners. They either want to help, or they often want to be in the hot seat themselves.
The entire process is entirely free.
Does the help extend beyond the hour and a half zoom session?
Yes, it does. After being in the hot seat for the interview process, Joan speaks with the business owner a couple of weeks later to see how they felt about their experience.
She tries to understand if the information and suggestions given were helpful for the struggling business owner. She always asks if they need additional resources, too.
What kind of results is Joan witnessing in the follow-up discussions?
Joan has been running Business4Business for about 5 years, and in all that time, not a single business that they have worked with has closed.
This is true even for the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses at the time were curious about how to pivot to stay open and profitable.
COVID has still lingered, so finding ways to make this new reality work is critical for business success.
The biggest issue at the moment is getting employees to come in and work. During 2020, employers were offering so many additional benefits like signing bonuses or Netflix accounts to come in and work.
Despite the pandemic easing up, many employees are still looking for these extra benefits, which puts a lot of pressure on small business owners looking for reliable and quality employees.
How Often is the Hot Seat Event?
Right now, it occurs on the 4th Wednesday of every month, but Joan admits she still receives many messages about business owners needing help.
As of now, they are able to assist 12 business owners a year, but she is looking for ways and opportunities to increase that number. One idea is to create more abbreviated sessions for smaller, quicker solutions with a smaller panel.
What is Joan’s History of coming to the San Gabriel Valley?
Joan went to San Diego State and then immediately moved to LA, where she worked at the Los Angeles Times.
Not wanting to live in the hustle and bustle of LA, she decided to reside in Pasadena, which was her introduction to the SGV.
What was Joan’s role at the LA Times?
Joan was the manager of the customer service department. There were about 300 representatives at the time. They had over one million subscribers.
How does Business4Business raise funds?
If someone sponsors a monthly call, they are entitled to 15 to promote and discuss their business. They can show their website and links.
They also receive a copy of the zoom call that has been recorded, which they can use to promote their business on their own website or social media platforms.
In addition, they reach out for grants and local corporations for donations to help small businesses.
How does Joan Moderate the advice given in the Zoom meetings?
They ask the people to type in the word “suggestion” in the chat, or just “S” or “C” for comment, and then Joan will call on them.
This alleviates the concern of business owners or professionals just blurting out ideas or talking over each other.
How much of the advice given is logistical and technical vs. an overall need to revamp or pivot?
For the most part, it’s a rethinking of how the business functions. A lot of it is the business owner getting out of their own head.
If they truly want to keep their business successful or even open, the needed advice and suggestions are available.
What ideas does Joan have for B4B in the future?
Joan wants to maintain what they currently have, but she is looking for new ways to have an abbreviating form of B4B where someone can request help on a quick topic, and there can still be brainstorming and assistance.
They are also working on a new website for B4B, which will present new opportunities and resources for businesses.
About Joan De Souza
Joan De Souza has 20 years managerial experience as the Customer Service Manager at the Los Angeles Times, managing and leading more than 200 staff. She was a decision-maker responsible for implementing a firm wide circulation system, which became the central hub of the subscription and delivery process. She was also responsible for implementing such projects as the home delivery customer service at La Opinion.
Currently she is the founder of a local business support group, Business4Business, which assists businesses to continuously succeed. Joan is extensively involved with her community. She served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce in which she was the Vice Chair of Membership.
Joan is the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce Lead Ambassador, the Fundraising Director of the Pasadena Quarterbacks Club, Board member of the Foundation for Living Beauty, former Community Engagement Specialist for The First Tee Pasadena, Co-Chair Special Needs Ministry at St. Philip the Apostle Church, former member of the Board of Directors Rosemary Children’s Services, Volunteer Coordinator Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 and former member of Business Networking International.
Joan was born in Lawrence, MA and raised in Northern California. She graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Social Sciences.
Phone: 626 482-8867
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 5254, Pasadena, CA 91117