Help On The Way?

From city districts to our federal level, there seems to be scrambling to create relief packages for small businesses. How will the new programs and policies affect you? What makes you hopeful for 2021? Let me know -- and we can share your story!

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

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Love finds a way

Heartthrob Wedding

Emily Gaikowski, officiating at a pre-pandemic wedding, now plans scaled-down micro-weddings that, even with few guests in attendance, are special and memorable. She's expecting a big rush of weddings for late 2021 and 2022.

“It’s a good thing I have a background in psychology,” says Emily Gaikowski, owner of Heartthrob Wedding and Events, with a laugh.

Preparing for a walk down the aisle has always been a dramatic endeavor. Gaikowski has been a reassuring voice and detailed organizer for hundreds of couples since she started the service five years ago. Her Los Feliz-based business grew out of a part-time gig, with Gaikowski officiating at friends’ weddings.

 The pandemic has really turned her industry upside down.  The $55 billion wedding service industry, according to IBIS World Analysts, expects to see a 21 percent decline in revenue in 2020 because so many weddings were postponed due to restrictions on large gatherings.

The good news, however, is the industry is bracing for a 33.1 percent surge in 2021 because couples are either finally tying the knot after months of postponements or deciding the pandemic can’t stand in their way.

“I have had clients who decided that they are not going to sit and mope,” says Gaikowski. “I really have encouraged people to be happy this year.”

Planning micro is macro

Currently, Gaikowski is scheduling weddings now through spring of 2022. The weddings she used to plan – large, creatively curated events often with buffet-style catering and 200 guests – are a thing of the past.

The scaled down micro-wedding has core elements of a traditional wedding but no buffets and less guests in physical attendance. Couples can opt to Livestream or Zoom the ceremony for remote guests who can, after the vows, join the wedding party for a virtual cake cutting and champagne toast.

Through it all, Gaikowski hasn’t changed her pricing structure, even though the guest list shrinks, the work is still the same, she says.

“There’s a lot of additional work to stagger vendors to the location site for example for safety reasons. Mirco-weddings can be a logistical puzzle and just as much, if not more, work than traditional ones.”

Gaikowski and her team of vendors strictly adhere to pandemic protocols, but couples have asked her to plan an indoor wedding for 200, or an outdoor wedding for 150 guests. “I know peers in my industry will take these, but I won’t.”

Last year, Gaikowski applied for a PPP loan but did not get it. She’s careful to not end up with a pile of debt.

“I’ve seen so many scams offering small business loans with interest rates of 30 percent,” she says. “Mine is an all cash business and I try to use my credit cards as little as possible.”

Included in a list of things Gaikowski hopes for 2021 (“billions spent on weddings”) is to schedule in quality personal time.

“When the pandemic is over I don’t want to return to normal. You always hear that small business owners have to work around the clock. That used to be me,” she says. “But now I have learned how I need to say ‘no,’ and don’t work or read emails on weekends. I have to take care of myself first.”

POLL: When will you feel comfortable attending a wedding in-person?

You voted:

Biz Buzz Asks: How's Business?

We posed the question to Marina Olshansky of Vesca Botanicals, an online houseplant delivery service.

Hows Business Marina Olshansky of Vesca Botanicals

Glassell Park-based Vesca Bontanicals is on Instagram at @vescabotanicals

Second round of grants opens for small business in District 13

Small businesses in Council District 13 -- which stretches from Echo Park to Hollywood -- can now apply for a second round of grants through a new partnership of the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) and the council office.

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This next round of funding will be open to a wider swath of small business owners due to an increase in the revenue cap requirements. During this second phase, qualified small businesses located within District 13 can have annual revenues of up to $5 million.

Businesses that applied but did not qualified for the first round of funding last year because of the revenue requirement will automatically be entered into this phase. Those businesses will be notified through email about their status.

The initiative will provide $5,000 to randomly-selected small business owners.

Applications will be accepted starting January 28 at 8 am online until February 4 at 5pm.

Click here for application link.

LA County launches small biz loan program

To stabilize small businesses, LA County has launched a loan program where business owners can access flexible and affordable capital and free technical assistance.

The Small Business Stabilization Loan Program kicks off January 28; program funds are intended to prevent job loss and business closures. Interest rates will be competitive for loans ranging from $50,000 to $3 million. Businesses must have been in operation for at least two years and seek working capital, equipment purchases, real estate acquisition or refinancing of existing loans at higher interest rates.

Business owners applying are required to attend an online webinar “Applying for An Affordable & Flexible LACDA Loan” to learn more about requirements, the application process and documentation needed. Go here for more details.

State financial relief programs: What’s available from the CDTFA?

Finding financial relief can be overwhelming for California small businesses.

“A lot of small businesses owners don’t have dedicated financial help and often are trying to figure all the tax stuff out by themselves at night after working a long day,” says Nick Maduros, director  of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).  This is the state department that collects revenue from the sales and use, fuel, alcohol and cannabis taxes as well as a variety of other California taxes and fees.

Maduros outlines three CDFTA programs that small businesses should know about and take advantage of if they qualify.

First off, the CDTFA is currently offering a three-month extension to qualified businesses filing returns that are due between December 15 2020 and April 30, 2021. The governor offered similar extensions for the first and second quarters of 2020. “We had more than 100,000 or so filers take advantage of these extensions,” says Maduros.

Qualified small business (with less than $5 million in taxable annual sales) can enroll in a 12-month, interest-free, payment plan for up to $50,000 of sales and use tax liability.  “To qualify for zero interest, all payment plans must be paid in full by April 30, 2022,” explains Maduros.  About 10,000 applicants qualified for a similar program last year and were able to defer about $150 million.  

And finally, keep your eyes open for a next possible round of the Main Street Small Business Tax Credit – it’s been proposed in the Governor’s budget but not officially approved. This small business hiring tax credit provides a credit to offset income taxes or sales and use taxes. The tentative credit reservation is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Further details on each of these resources are available on the CDTFA COVID-19 State of Emergency webpage.

Welcome 2021!

What's on top of your List for 2021? Biz Buzz wants to hear one thing that your small business wants for this new year. Drop me a line and let me know how business is going -- or not going -- for you! 

-- Brenda Rees

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