August is coming in like a heatwave lion. Get active in the morning, keep hydrated all day long, and support a local restaurant to keep you out of the hot kitchen this week.
-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor
Contact me at brenda@TheEastsiderLA.com
Microloans are a big deal for small businesses
Daniel Lee, owner of the Highland Park Car Wash, was stressing out about how long it was taking to receive a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan when the City of L.A. came to the rescue.
“The City of Los Angeles was one of the first ones to give us a loan," said Lee, referring to the Small Business Emergency Microloan Program, which was established to help businesses get through the pandemic.
Established in early March with an $11 million commitment and administered by the Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD), the program reached out to local businesses that aren’t eligible for federal CARES Act dollars.
Since early April, the program has distributed more than $3.4 million through 227 loans in amounts between $5,000 and $20,000. The top industries that received the microloans include hospitality, retail and entertainment. Click here to see a map of all businesses that have received microloans to date.
For Lee, the microloan came through at just the right time. With his business closed about a month between March and April, Lee used the funds to cover payroll, soaps and chemicals along with paying mortgage.
“We got $20,000 and that may seem like a lot, but for a business, necessary expenses add up quickly,” he said. “It went fast.”
Since its reopening, business at the do-it-yourself car wash on busy Figueroa has been steady. “We are about 20 percent down from where we should be on pace, but things are looking better,” says Lee. After all, there will always be a need in Los Angeles to transform a dusty car into a sparkling vehicle – even if people are driving less these days.
Highland Park Car Wash’s model fits perfectly in these days of coronavirus – it’s a mixture of touchless automation and personal attention.
Customers drive in and pay for their washes through a contactless barcode system. “You don’t need to even roll down your window,” explains Lee. Customers sit in their own cars through the washing cycles which only take four minutes. “We have someone at the end who dries your car. We wanted a little human touch so this experience is not just all computerized.”
From there, customers can pull into a vacuuming station; vacuums along with air hoses are constantly being sanitized, says Lee.
“Even though we are outdoors and in open air, we still want people to put on masks when they are here,” he explains. “We want everyone to feel safe.”
Small businesses can still apply to be part of the Microloan Program; Lee says the process was easy and straightforward. The microloan interest rate is either zero percent for a term of six months to one year, or three to five percent for a term up to five years. There is no credit score minimum to participate.
As the safer-at-home orders continue, washing your car can be therapeutic, says Lee.
“We close at 8 p.m. and we are something to do,” he explains. “I often wash my car when it’s 7:30 p.m. and the sun is still out. I take my time and do it right, because it feels good to have a clean car.”
POLL: What “regular” activities help you through quarantine?
Biz Buzz Asks: How’s business these days?
We asked the question of David Cowie, one of the owners of Baller Hardware in Silver Lake.
Free small biz program from Goldman Sachs
Small business owners can learn valuable tips on growing their businesses and how they can also bring much needed jobs into their communities through a free, 3-month online program offered by Goldman Sachs.
Qualified small business owners can enroll in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program which will examine business fundamentals, provide one-on-one advisory and help tailor a personal business growth plan. To be eligible: you own or co-own a small business; been in operation for at least two years; gross revenues are at least $150,000 in last fiscal years; and you have at least four employees (which includes owners).
The program is being offered until October 15. Click here to apply and learn more.
Online retail sales during COVID-19
It’s a no brainer than online retail sales has been growing steadily as the world becomes more comfortable with shopping by mouse.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ten years ago, online sales were only 8 percent of all sales. Then COVID-19 hit and online sales shot up to 19 percent, but June, that online sales dropped back down to 16 percent.
Economists weigh how online sales could possibly perform after the pandemic is over in this recent article from the USCOC.
Fewer walks down the aisle
Small businesses that rely on couples tying the knot may need to re-strategize their target audiences. News blog OZY reports that throughout history, fewer couples got married during times of crises such as the 1930s Great Depression (20 percent) and the 2008 Great Recession (4 percent decline).
Sociologists are carefully watching how the current Pandemic Recession is affecting the institution of matrimony which has been trending downward for years. Fertility rates are also being examined – which also could affect how the economy will look in the future.
National Farmers Market Week
Local farmers markets – which consist of many small and entrepreneurial businesses – are part of an industry that adds about $9 billion to the U.S. economy every year, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The number of farmers markets in the U.S. has grown from just under 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 today, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.
A recent article from the Small Business Administration's News and Views highlights how community markets boost local economies while offering essential, high-quality goods.
To celebrate National Farmers Market Week (August 2-8), why not do your part and pick up a peck of peaches from your local market (socially distancing of course)?
That’s it for this issue!
Thanks for reading! Hunker down and carry on! We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.
-- Brenda Rees