One small business owner in Martinsville-Henry County said he was floored when he found out less than 24 hours after completing an application for the Pay it Forward MHC Small Business Relief Program that he was awarded a $3,000 forgivable loan.
“I was flabbergasted,” said Roger Curtis, owner of The Jeweler’s Edge, located at 2440B Greensboro Road in Martinsville. “This was hands-down the easiest form we’ve ever filled out for any type of grant or loan. It was amazingly quick and amazingly direct.”
The Jeweler’s Edge was one of 20 businesses awarded a forgivable loan from Pay it Forward MHC within a day of its launch. Like many businesses in Martinsville-Henry County, within the first two weeks of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) gaining traction in the community, Curtis said business was extremely tough for him and his employees.
“Everyone was completely new to this situation — we had maybe one or two customers coming in,” he said. “We just signed a three-year contract, and I have rent due for three years, whether or not I have customers. You start looking at all these bills coming in and the amount of business that’s coming in, and you wonder ‘Do I have enough personal savings to cover this?’ We had to sell some inventory to pay our bills and stay afloat, but that’s not something you want to do in our business.”
While business at The Jeweler’s Edge has picked up, according to Curtis, many area businesses still are struggling to make ends meet and need a lifeline to bridge the gap while federal funding kicks in and business picks back up.
India Brown, program officer at The Harvest Foundation, said Pay it Forward MHC is the foundation’s immediate response to supporting small businesses, which are the “real champions in our community because they continue to push forward during such unpredictable circumstances.”
Brown added, “Words cannot describe how thankful we are for our partnership with the Virginia 30 Day Fund. To announce the Pay It Forward MHC Small Business Relief Fund on Wednesday and to have 20 businesses approved hours later is unbelievable.”
Cindy Summit, president of S&K Office Products, located at 219 E. Church St. in Uptown Martinsville, said she heard about Pay it Forward MHC from three different sources almost simultaneously: an email from the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, an email from Michael Scales at the Longwood Small Business Development Center, and a text from her daughter.
“The biggest challenge for me is the fact that with businesses closed and customers working from home, the demand for traditional supplies was not there, although demand for COVID-19 supplies was extremely high,” Summit said. “Sanitizer wipes, toilet tissue, and paper towels were so difficult to find at first, and we went weeks without some of those supplies, but things have gotten a lot easier now.”
Summit said the Pay it Forward MHC application was very easy to navigate once she got needed paperwork in order. She said her only hang-up was recording her video for the application, but that was mainly due to her need to get the perfect take.
“We’ve done things differently at our store,” Summit added. “We’re still closed to the public, but we have added curbside pickup and we still have delivery. Most small businesses have struggled through this time at one point or another, but we are grateful to The Harvest Foundation for providing an opportunity like this in our community.”
Pay it Forward MHC, powered by The Harvest Foundation and the Virginia 30 Day Fund, was announced June 10 with a $1 million investment from the foundation in honor of local healthcare workers and front line responders. Eligible businesses include those employing 3-30 people, businesses operating for at least one year, and those owned and operated by a Virginia resident.
Funds disbursed by Pay it Forward MHC do not need to be repaid, but if small business owners wish to “pay it forward” to another Virginia business in need of assistance in the future, they can direct dollars back into the fund to be used in Martinsville-Henry County.
The Virginia 30 Day Fund was created by Virginia technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder and his wife, Burson, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The fund’s goal is to save as many Virginia jobs as possible while many small businesses wait for mandated shutdowns to end and for federal funding like the Paycheck Protection Program to hit their bank accounts.
To date, more than 340 struggling small businesses have been funded through the Virginia 30 Day Fund. This model has been deployed in numerous states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Colorado, with many more states on the way. Apply to Pay it Forward MHC by visiting theharvestfoundation.org and clicking on “How to Apply.” Find out more about Virginia 30 Day Fund by visiting va30dayfund.com.