When COVID-19 impacted sales for equipment handling manufacturer SquarePac Services, founders Walter and Jeanille Griggs pivoted quickly. They created Sanitize Now to provide protective equipment, sanitizers and a unique, hands-free universal foot dispenser they designed and manufacture to combat its spread.
She Prints It, LLC, founded by president and SheEO Cher’Don Russom-Reynolds, provides unique promotional products, branding, networking and more with a focus on supporting and advancing women-owned businesses. When the pandemic hit, she expanded her product line to include custom face covers and face shields.
The Griggs and Russom-Reynolds are clients of Paul Wilson, area director of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center at Georgia State University. In response to the pandemic, Wilson referred the Griggs to emergency lending sources and grants that allowed them to keep their employees in place and develop their new product line. He helped Russom-Reynolds apply for a Paycheck Protection Loan, for which she was approved.
“Our team has been tutored by Paul, who advised us to diversify, diversify, diversify and truly understand the needs of our clients,” Walter said. “His advice resonated.”
“Paul sends potential customers my way and checks in on me to see how it’s going and how we’re functioning,” Russom-Reynolds said. “He takes time out of an extremely business schedule to make sure our concerns are met.”
Wilson and consultants Anna Brumby and Donald Lamar normally serve about 400 businesses annually. During the first three months of the pandemic, they served more than 500 small businesses, providing information on the SBDC’s response and recovery resources including SBA emergency loan programs, and online SBDC courses and training. They also conducted more than 30 outreach webinars and online sessions, including three relief loan webinars in partnership with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
They fielded hundreds of referrals from the SBA and other small business organizations, chambers of commerce, banks and economic development offices including Invest Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“The emergency loans were announced quickly, so we had to become experts quickly. No other organization is set up to serve small businesses in such a mass capacity and all at one time,” he said.
From March 1 through May 31, Wilson and his team helped SBDC clients secure more than $3.1 million in relief loans and grants that have supported more than 240 jobs. Since June, they’ve continued to help small business owners navigate and develop strategies to adjust their business operations to the current environment.
“We’re sure our small businesses will get back to some sense of normalcy,” Wilson said. “In the meantime, the pandemic will force those willing to be flexible and creative to think of ways to innovate and thrive. We are here to help them strategize new and different ways to do business.”
“At the end of the day, the SBDC wants you to be successful,” said SquarePac Services CFO Jeanille Griggs. “They will help you anticipate the market and be ready when the opportunity is there.”