The city of Goose Creek is working to save the small businesses that City Council members say make up the fabric of the community.
“The pandemic was no one’s fault, but everyone is still suffering the consequences from it,” said Economic Development Director Matt Brady. “It’s also truly much more efficient to try and assist and save a business than to go out and recruit new ones.”
To help those still struggling, the city has set aside $250,000 of unassigned fund balance — money the Goose Creek City Council has saved over time for rainy days — and created a citywide loan program called Kickstart the Creek.
The city is being strategic in helping businesses that are uniquely situated in the town versus aiding someone who owns various franchises of a restaurant and has access to larger resources, Brady said.
“Small businesses are what make the community unique and special,” he said.
Brady added that at this time last year, no one knew what would happen, but by summer, the city began thinking internally about ways to help small businesses.
Like so many other cities and organizations during the pandemic, Goose Creek turned to Charleston LDC for help. Together they established Kickstart the Creek loans and the loan process. LDC is a not-for-profit community development lender that has worked with borrowers throughout Charleston, especially those who may not have access to traditional capital and more prominent loans.
To apply for a Kickstart the Creek loan, small businesses must have 25 or fewer employees and operate in Goose Creek. The loan is to be used for working capital.
“Once we are all pretty assured and satisfied that the pandemic is over from a business perspective, we’ll reevaluate what we can do with this program and how those funds can be set aside and help other businesses moving forward,” Brady said.
Turning Page owner Valinda Miller has been a voice for small businesses, especially female and minority owned, throughout the pandemic.
Miller owns a bookshop in Goose Creek, which employs one other person. Simultaneously, she works a full-time job to help make ends meet as her revenue as decreased throughout the pandemic. Loans have been hard to come by, she said, and many take significant time to process. She still hasn’t heard back from two grants she applied for in November and December.
“I can’t wait and depend on these grants and loans, so I am still working my full-time job and getting a part-time job. I don’t mind working. I don’t mind working five jobs,” she said. “I’m not going to get in deeper debt and get behind on anything. I’m going to keep going.”
Miller has always dreamed of opening her own bookstore, and while times have been tough with closures, losing employees and pivoting her business plan, she’s also learned that much more about being a business owner. With Kickstart the Creek, she has to keep in touch with the Charleston LDC, provide profit and loss statements and attend business classes intended to help her business thrive.
Over the past few months, Miller received $3,000 from the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program in October, and a recent $1,000 from Lowcountry Local First.
One amazing silver lining is that because of the various connections Miller made during the Goose Creek loan process, she has received several inquiries from people who want to help her expand.
But she doesn’t want to depend on loans and grants, especially as she hopes to open a second store in the near future. Aside from the Kickstart the Creek loan, she is debt-free as she operates her business on cash.
“You can’t let something knock you down that you have no control over,” she said. “This pandemic came out the blue. You cannot give up and I am not giving up for nobody. My mother, my grandmother would have said we didn’t raise you like that. You got knocked down? Go cry in the corner, and now get up, let’s go.”