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'It was rough. It was really rough.' Local small businesses continue to struggle amid pandemic

Posted at 7:02 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 07:02:15-04

DETROIT, Mich. — National small business week is next week.

Around 100,000 businesses permanently closed in 2020.

Personal finance website Wallethub.com recently surveyed small business owners and found 50 million small business owners say it will take more than a year for their business to return to pre-COVID levels.

The vaccine rollout is bringing us closer to fully re-opening the economy, but many businesses still face restrictions and are just trying to survive.

I sat down with two women business owners in metro Detroit about what this experience has been like.

National Small Business Week

“It was rough. It was really rough,” said Nada Abbate about running a small business during this pandemic.

She owns Nada & Co. – a home décor shop that she opened in Royal Oak in 2012.

“It was really a challenge to stay afloat. How did you do it?” I asked her via zoom.

“Number one – my landlords were very gracious. So, they worked with me on the rent which was, like, one of my biggest concerns and costs obviously,” she replied.

She also qualified for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan to cover operating costs, rent, utilities, inventory and more.

But even with that help, she ended up having to move to a new location in Berkley just last week.

“I definitely downsized quite a bit. I went from 1,200 square feet to 500 square feet,” she said.

Brandi Taylor of Detroit lost her job as a makekup market specialist when COVID-19 hit last March.

“I looked at it as an opportunity because I had a lot of time to think,” Brandi said.

She was already a freelance makeup artist and podcaster in her spare time.

She’d dreamed of owning her own cosmetic line since 2006, and after being laid off she spent time researching how to start her own line.

She applied for a loan from the small business administration last summer.

With that money, she was able to launch XquisiteLooks Cosmetics in November of 2020.

“Right now we roughly have about 10 products. We have lashes. We have brow pencils, brow powders,” Brandi said starting to list her product line.

Brandi and Nada’s struggles may be different, but these two small business owners are among millions trying to survive.

How long will it take for small businesses to fully recover?

“I think in terms of the job loss that will be out there that have occurred and the challenges that our small businesses have faced, I do think it will take at least year or more to see the full recovery,” said Josh Hundt – Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Vice President at the Michigian Economic Development Corporation.

Hundt said the MEDC has been focused on doing everything it can to support small businesses during this pandemic.

“In all, more than $250 million of critically needed funds were distributed by the MEDC and our partners to small businesses over the last year,” he explained.

Hundt said that $250 million infusion helped retain over 200,000 jobs and supported 25,000 different businesses.

He also said this effort was carried out in Michigan through the deployment of 23 different programs with money going to businesses in all 83 counties.

And more help is on the way.

Starting on Monday, May 3, the Small Business Administration will begin taking applications for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund – that was established through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Restaurant, bars, bakeries, brewpubs and similar businesses hit hard during this pandemic can apply for grants equal to their revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location.

So, what can you do to celebrate national small business week?

Business owners will tell you to shop local.

“Absolutely. Please. We really, really, really appreciate it,” said Nada Abbate.

National Small Business Week starts on Sunday, May 2, 2021.

The MEDC is encouraging you to support small businesses, continue to safely shop local, and visit sites based here in Michigan.