How about a “Quarantine 2020” candle series to get you through the year?
Or vulnerable seniors having their medical supplies delivered free to their doorsteps?
These are among the adaptions to COVID-19 realities that two Fresno businesses made after either coaching and support, or funds through a “Save Our Small Businesses” grant from the city of Fresno.
Scent & Fire
This assistance during the pandemic helped Scent & Fire evolve to increase its monthly orders from 400 candles to more than 1,000.
Edwards unveiled a new candle series during the pandemic, Quarantine 2020, “to create unique experiences and vibes amid the COVID-19 chaos.” Other Scent & Fire innovations: eGift Cards and downloadable playlists to accompany the candles.
The Bone Store
“When our world got turned upside-down in March, we were really worried. We knew this would have a huge financial impact — we just didn’t know how devastating it would be.” Karter McKinlay, CEO and co-owner of The Bone Store
The Bone Store is all about health and wellness. Its mission is to improve the way people walk, move, sit, and sleep. The majority of customers come in with a doctor’s prescription or are repeat customers.
Almost overnight, the store’s main demographic was told to stay indoors and not leave their homes. As a business that caters largely to customers 65 and older, the news was concerning.
“When our world got turned upside-down in March, we were really worried. We knew this would have a huge financial impact — we just didn’t know how devastating it would be,” said Karter McKinlay, CEO and co-owner of The Bone Store.
The Bone Store received a “Save Our Small Businesses” grant from the city of Fresno. Innovations they have implemented include offering free doorstep delivery, conducting business remotely, effectively communicating their new business operations to their customers, and creating new ways to keep staff working in their three locations.
Save Our Small Businesses
In April, City Hall awarded forgivable zero-interest loans of $5,000 and $10,000 to 116 businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The 0% loans will be converted to grants if a business remains open after one year.
According to city data, more than $8.6 million was requested by small businesses. The loans support 485 jobs.
The list of recipients represents a cross-section of businesses: restaurants and catering, legal services, barbershops, and salons.
Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, who co-sponsored the legislation with councilmember Mike Karbassi, said at the time the program was meant to help those businesses unable to receive federal stimulus money.
“A lot of Fresno local small mom and pop businesses were left out. That’s why this type of program is so critical for our community,” Soria said.
More COVID Relief Funding for Small Businesses on the Way
On Monday, the Fresno City Council added $2 million for small business relief grants to be administered by the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.
“As a mission-focused lender, we can’t afford to turn our backs on small businesses when they need us the most.” — Tate Hill, Access Plus Capital’s executive director
A similar program administered by Fresno County received 1,359 applicants for 1,000 available grants of $5,000. The winners were picked by a lottery in June.
Today, the county is expected to approve another $250,000 for small businesses, also through the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.
The grants would provide $5,000 for operations with less than 10 full-time employees. And a staff report says the program will prioritize “underserved, minority businesses that have not been able to access any federal funding … and are in desperate need of capital.”
Access Plus Capital
Since its inception in 2009, Access Plus Capital’s multilingual staff has lent over $35 million to hundreds of entrepreneurs.
“As a mission-focused lender, we can’t afford to turn our backs on small businesses when they need us the most,” said Tate Hill, Access Plus Capital’s executive director. “We don’t know all that the future holds in the coming months, but we are committed to finding innovative solutions to meeting the capital and business coaching needs of our local business owners.”
Fresno CDFI dba Access Plus Capital is a subsidiary of the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission. Fresno EOC, a 501(c)3 non-profit community action agency, has more than five decades of experience investing in and helping people become self-sufficient.