In a year where countless small businesses have shuttered due to the massive devastation of COVID-19, small businesses are in need of financial and coaching support more than ever before. CommunityWorks sprang into action in early 2020 as an approved SBA lender to distribute over $2.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. CommunityWorks has also partnered with cities and counties throughout South Carolina to provide local small business relief, most recently including Greenville County Cares COVID-19 Hospitality Business Grants, which provides an opportunity for Greenville County businesses to be reimbursed for COVID-19 related expenses.
CommunityWorks has been able to provide small businesses not only with financial help, but also business coaching thanks to strategic partnerships. Generously, Duke Energy gifted CommunityWorks $100,000 to go toward small business coaching and lending programs. Duke Energy’s gift capitalizes on the recent donation to CommunityWorks from MacKenzie Scott, who distributed 4.2B among 384 carefully selected organizations. Operating in the Upstate and Pee Dee regions of South Carolina, the communities Duke Energy serves will benefit from their funding as well as Scott’s donation, as CommunityWorks offers resources to help these businesses stay afloat and adapt through COVID-19.
“The generous support of partners like Duke Energy allows us to continue fighting for the wellbeing of our small business clients,” said Tammie Hoy Hawkins, CEO of CommunityWorks. “We are eager to expand our reach with the help of this gift. CommmunityWorks continues to find ways to expand lending and coaching opportunities, striving to remain a soft spot for struggling small businesses to land in today’s economic crisis.”
“Small businesses are the economic backbone of communities across South Carolina, and their success is our success,” said Mike Callahan, state president for Duke Energy in South Carolina. “Duke Energy is a large company, but everything we do is local. That’s why we understand how important it is that these businesses not only survive but thrive.”
CommunityWorks’ clients and owners of Unlocked Coffee Roasters, Andres Camargo and Rocio Salazar, had to pivot when the long-anticipated opening of their Colombian coffee café, Unlocked Coffee Roasters, fell on the same week businesses were required to close in March. Despite their best efforts, the momentum they had been building for over two years in preparation to open Unlocked Coffee in Greenville quickly deflated. As safety policies, particularly in the food industry, tightened, and fear rose in the wake of the virus, Andres and Rocio searched for ways to stay open. By offering curbside pickup, introducing an extensive list of sanitization regulations, and continuing to sell their trademark coffee beans by the bag, Andres and Rocio were able to continue welcoming customers.
Andres is quick to share the difficulty and unpredictability of opening a business in 2020, but his passion for his trade remains. Thankfully, business has started to pick up, which Andres contributes mostly to word of mouth via faithful customers. This momentum allowed them to recently hire their first employees.
Unlocked Coffee received microloans from CommunityWorks to open their business, and since, benefitted from ongoing coaching through CommunityWorks’ business coaches, Jonathan Rowland and Zack Wright. “CommunityWorks always shows interest and helps and tells the truth. It doesn’t feel like you’re working with a big bank,” Andres said. “They have the perspective of a lender that cares for your needs.”
Adrena Mullins, owner of Lil Jazzi’s Café in Florence, has also found creative ways to remain fruitful as a restaurant owner in 2020. Lil Jazzi’s, which is the only café in the Florence Regional Airport, saw a dramatic decrease in business due to lack of air travel from COVID-19. Adrena decided to focus her energy on her existing vending machines and even received a microloan from CommunityWorks to expand her services. The vending machines helped provide income when she ultimately had to close her business in the airport. Though she is hopeful she will be able to reopen the airport café when travel increases, she has turned her focus to a new venture.
When a storefront opened in downtown Florence, the city encouraged her to consider taking her famous salads, sandwiches and more downtown. Lil Jazzi’s plans to open as the first café in the growing downtown of Florence in early 2021. Adrena’s resilience can be attributed to her lifelong desire of entrepreneurship. “I worked at Target for 16 years, but I always wanted to own by own business,” Adrena said. “I never imagined I’d be in the restaurant industry, but people keep coming back for the food.”