“The same day we had the call to review and sign the documents, within hours the money was in our account. It is such a relief, a cushion.” – Paola Mendivil, El Granjero
The Paycheck Protection Program has been a lifeline to many during this pandemic, and we are grateful to have been in a position to help. Loan funds come from our usual loan reserves, so thank you to our funders and donors. But there has been disparity and frustration in the PPP program and many of the smallest businesses were being left behind.
We wanted to fix that, so we reached out to colleagues, friends, and partners to find businesses that had been left behind.
Through May 5, we’ve helped 42 small businesses in 26 Michigan counties get PPP funds. The average loan was $22.207. Almost half (43%) of the funds went to diverse borrowers and 78.5% went to new-to-Northern-Initiatives borrowers.
“What an incredible difference this program is making for businesses and families,” said Elissa Sangalli, Northern Initiatives president.
Here are some of their stories. There are others here.
Running a restaurant is like raising a baby, said Paola Mendivil. “You have to care for it, take care of it.” There have been times during the past year – with shutdowns, protocols, capacity changes and more – that she did feel like throwing in the towel, but El Granjero, an authentic Mexican grill in Grand Rapids, Mich., is her baby.
Before the pandemic, the restaurant employed 23 to 24 employees, most of them full time. When the first shutdown came in March 2020, that number was reduced to 10 and carryout was king. When restaurants were allowed to open at 25% capacity, El Granjero waited a few weeks before welcoming guests indoors. Then they brought back some servers (there are currently 15 employees) and things have been going well. Still, about 75% of the orders are for take-out food.
One of Mendivil’s outlets is her small business group at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (WMHCC). “It’s like our therapy,” she said of the weekly meetings. The business owners in the Transformando group gather on Zoom (for now) to learn about food safety, financial literacy, human resources and more, but they also vent – and support each other. “It’s the community component that has gotten us through,” she said.
And it was through the WMHCC that she found out about Northern Initiatives and how they could help her get a PPP loan. She had tried before in 2020 but paperwork snafus and a bank ownership change didn’t help. Israel Flores, a business development specialist for NI based in west Michigan, talked to the small business owners at one of the Transformando meetings, explaining how to get the PPP process going. Flores then talked Mendivil through setting up an account and reminding her what files were needed next.
“I felt bad that he had to keep calling me for more information, but he said not to worry,” Mendivil said. “It really was a team effort.”
The PPP loan the restaurant received is Northern Initatives’ biggest PPP loan to date.
“The same day we had the call to review and sign the documents, within hours the money was in our account,” Mendivil said. “It is such a relief, a cushion.”
Rick Beisiegel is the owner and sole employee of Vital Signs and Graphics, a business he started in 1982. And that’s just how he wants it. “If my grandkid calls in the middle of the day and needs something, I can go help,” he said. “I wanted to own my own business so I can be a family man.”
Beisiegel’s Vital Signs and Graphics, in rural Newaygo, Mich., relies on subcontractors to help with making and installing signs on cars and trucks, on and inside buildings. The business also creates T-shirts, logos and more that brighten Newaygo County and beyond. And it’s Beisiegel who designs and lays out everything. “I’m the one who carries the ball.”
And he isn’t a fan of the Paycheck Protection Program. “I thought it was a terrible idea,” he said, with the government wanting him to borrow money to keep employees paid so they wouldn’t apply for unemployment, which he had already paid for.
But as the pandemic wore on, he grew weary of not being able to pay himself. “We pay our bills and live on what’s left over,” he said, and the leftovers slowed to a trickle.
The River Country Chamber of Commerce posted about Northern Initiatives and its willingness to help small business owners navigate the PPP journey, so Beisiegel called. “They were really knowledgeable and accessible. When I called I got a person and didn’t have to push buttons and numbers to connect to someone.”
He even referred a friend to NI who was “ecstatic” and got a larger PPP loan than Beisiegel’s.
Beisiegel was also hesitant about owing anyone money, so he submitted the application for forgiveness of the loan less than a week after he received the money. Springtime awakens his business which is going great right now; he has more jobs in the pipeline than he’s had in years and is making plans to expand his showroom to include more products.