While the region’s small business owners began facing some of their biggest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic shut down this spring, the SKED team was busy working to soften their economic blow. The work continues as we offer both loan and training clients information to help them cope and survive.
Few small businesses were prepared for the weeks of closure, loss of revenue and supply chain issues, due to the shutdown. Each owner/manager experienced their own unique obstacles. SKED recognized the need to remind them that the nonprofit lender does business differently and better when it comes to counseling and assistance. Staff began reaching out to its loan and training clients within days of the closures.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) CARES Act provided some much-needed relief for SKED loan clients by paying their SBA Microloan payments for six months. Staff modified 34 loans for small business owners in its loan portfolio.
Our SKED Small Business Training staff worked to offer online social media training to help entrepreneurs keep in touch with their customers and clients. They developed a weekly chat session called Coffee Talk to keep their clients informed on the latest news and events that affect them.
SKED also added a COVID-19 resource page to its website to provide the most up-to-date workforce, unemployment insurance and government-assisted funding information via webinars and press releases.
Two SKED clients had very different experiences during the shutdown. SKED staff adjusted their assistance accordingly.
Somerset Asian Market owner Dan Brown was able to keep his retail business, in the Tradewind Shopping Center, open during the initial shutdown. He did experience some supply chain issues, but the fact his prepackaged and fresh food business was deemed essential allowed him to continue serving his customers. He even attracted some new ones who found his store a healthy alternative to the bigger chain grocery stores.
“We have customers who get as excited as children when they see our selection for the first time,” Brown said. “As a result, it has changed our sales mix to favor customers who choose to prepare their own food and has brought more new customers looking for different food options for Somerset.”
Brown and his wife, Maricel, opened their business in 2017, with a desire to provide their neighbors with an excellent ethnic blend of food. Brown said it filled a niche lacking in the community and provided a convenient place to find unique products and quality proteins and vegetables.
The Pulaski County transplants began working with SKED in 2017 when they needed inventory and equipment to open their business. Because their business was thriving with no issues, their business was growing 30-40% each year; SKED was just another lender to them – until COVID-19 hit.
“We were amazed when SKED first contacted us about the pandemic and took the lead in helping us with our existing loan,” Brown said. “They are personally invested in our region and in every loan they make. Instead of asking how they could help, they said: Here is how we will help you. We think that is amazing customer service, and you will not find that in many other lenders.”
Corbin resident and SH Tube owner Robert Smith was forced to close his family-owned trucking supply business for a week during the shutdown. His issues were workforce and supply chain-related.
Although his customers – the nation’s big-rig truckers – were still working and keeping essential businesses stocked, Smith’s focus of enhancing the interior and exterior of their trucks with good quality, made-in-America, stainless steel products from hand-selected, raw materials, was not a priority for most.
The 2020 Mid-American Truck Show was canceled. Smith refers to this event as the Super Bowl of trade shows. He and his team had worked for months producing several new products to showcase and sell at the event. He estimates a $50,000 loss for his business, due to the cancellation. Even though he offered an online show special with free shipping to for clients, the uncertainty of what the future held, few customers ready to spend money on making their trucks look good during the pandemic. As a result, Smith had to lay off five of his highly trained employees.
The young entrepreneur says this spring has been his most challenging to date, and there were times a friendly voice on the other end of the phone line, helped keep his spirits high.
“Chris (Coldiron) and the team at SKED made sure our loan payment was the last worry I had on my mind,” Smith said. “Chris and I spoke numerous times during the shutdown, and he helped me with anything I had questions about!”
Learn more about SH Tube www.shtube.net.
For more information on how SKED can help you create and fund your American dream, contact one of our team members https://skedcorp.com/about/team/.