The state’s ‘Back to Business’ (B2B) program handed out $111 million in relief grants from money received from US bailout Chairman Joe Biden who signed the law into law last March, and businesses of Hyde Park have received at least $400,000 in support.
More than half of large B2B funds remain unallocated; companies can apply online via the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) website.
“The purpose of government is to serve the people we serve,” Governor JB Pritzker said Jan. 20 during a Sip and savor cafe in Bronzeville, 78 E. 47th St., which won a $5,000 grant. “After the success of last year’s business interruption grants, which provided $290 million in assistance to more than 9,000 small businesses across our state, it’s clear these investments have had an impact. It’s also clear that more entrepreneurs need extra help to stabilize their businesses and build for the future.
“The men and women of the General Assembly have contributed to this, working with me to build the Back to Business program,” he said. “These are not loans, so companies that receive aid will not owe the state a penny.”
Seventy-one percent of recipients are from “hard-hit industries” like restaurants, taverns, arts organizations and salons, Pritzker said, and 79% of the money went to areas disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or low-income ZIP codes. More than half of the grants went to minority-owned businesses, and 43% of recipients applied for, but did not receive, BIG grants.
The DCEO worked to raise awareness of the B2B program with small business development centers across the state, local elected officials and other community leaders and did local outreach, including one on 47th Street in September .
The department’s acting director, Sylvia Garcia, said B2B relies on the Business Interruption (BIG) grants, which debuted in 2020 and have also been awarded to a number of businesses in Hyde Park. She said BIG was primarily focused “at that time on the mitigations that people were going through” and B2B was “focused a lot on operating losses.”
“We tried to build on the success of BIG but make it even clearer and more transparent,” Garcia said. “People had very clear documents that they provided: it’s actually a tax return from 2019 versus 2020. It’s a very clear calculation where we take a difference between the amount that you won in 2019 and the one in 2020, and the rewards are structured based on that operating loss. . BIG was similar, but it wasn’t exactly the same.”
There was also more statewide outreach this time around: more than 100 community navigators for the app across Illinois instead of 13 for BIG.
Trez V. Pugh III said his B2B grants primarily benefited his Sip & Savor cafes in Bronzeville; its location in Hyde Park, 5301 S. Hyde Park Blvd., was supported by a scholarship from the University of Chicago at the start of the pandemic. Wherever he comes from, he emphasized the primacy of working capital.
“It’s almost like oxygen: we need it to breathe. And without it, we’re going to die out,” he said. “(The B2B grant) allowed us to pay for our gas, our lights, our insurance, our taxes, our payroll; it helped me with my accountant and my attorney fees – I think you get the idea. the most important thing for me is it helped me retain my employees, without this subsidy it was pretty much certain that I would have to lay off employees.
international pigments, pigmentintl.com, a Hyde Park media platform run by Patricia Andrews-Keenan, started five years ago and won a $20,000 B2B grant. It runs several digital newsletters each week and a quarterly digital magazine in addition to an annual print edition.
“Initially, we wanted to talk about artists, because we didn’t think artists had publicity,” she said. “I said if I could work directly with artists to tell their stories, it would help elevate them. Because everyone needs to be written about if you want to sell work.”
Since Pigment International’s beginnings, Andrews-Keenan has taken artists from Chicago to the Art Basel exhibit in Miami Beach, Florida; when she returned last year, she learned that she had received the grant. “I can’t tell you how excited I was because in this business it’s all about appearance,” she said.
Some of the money went towards revamping Pigment International’s newsletters and delivery system, allowing it to distribute content more often. Andrews-Keenan bought a model to remake the shopping platform, which launched last week. She bought a plane ticket and accommodation to Italy for the upcoming Venice Biennale, to cover Simone Leigh, the first black artist to represent the United States in its national pavilion at the biennial exhibition. And she hired a consultant to work on Pigment International’s five-year plan.
“I think creativity is one of those things that adds to an economy that can’t be rigged, that can’t be replicated. So we have to keep supporting creativity because it sets us apart as beings. humans,” Andrews-Keenan said. noted. “It makes the city unique. An artist in Chicago is different from an artist in New York is different from an artist in LA, the way they do their work. I think you have to elevate them.”
CMS Trophies and Plaques, 606 E. 61st St., got $20,000, which allowed owner Martin W. Redd to catch up on bills, install a shutter in front of his front windows, buy a new printer, and hire two part-time employees. Prior to receiving the grant, CMS’s payroll “wasn’t that big at all because I was the only one working here,” Redd said with a laugh.
The pandemic has caused CMS’s revenue to drop to around 30% of pre-pandemic levels, with school sports leagues and several nonprofits ceasing operations.
“It got really bad,” said Redd, who opened the business 31 years ago in Chatham. Business has picked up since the move to West Woodlawn, and CMS secured city grants before getting B2B in November.
Redd can buy more gear with the money. “The printers we use here are top of the line; they cost between $500 and $600,” he said. “This process allows us to do photography and things like that. And we do laser engraving.”
Roddie Coutee, who runs footwear brand ABI Project, theabiproject.com, from her Hyde Park home, secured a $5,000 B2B grant. She designs her shoes on a computer at home, ships the designs overseas, and collects samples. All marketing, packaging and shipping and local pick-ups are done from Hyde Park.
The ABI project started six years ago. Despite the pandemic recession, Coutee has had recent success, which she attributes to public support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the time people have spent living, and therefore shopping, at home.
“People have been on social media more, it’s gotten me more likes, and people have been turning to me, my style and the pieces I create,” she said. “I feel like the pandemic and Black Lives Matter have gone hand in hand with the success of my business.”
“I think people had more free time to shop online because nothing else was open, and these women who like to shop were looking for an outlet. ‘I can’t go to the store and buy anything. I can’t go to Zara or Saks to buy anything right now, so I want to see what’s online. And they’ve discovered new suppliers and new companies, and I think that’s what helped my business grow.”
Coutee secured her B2B grant last month and used it to fund her spring shoe line. “Swatches are around $80 and $100 a piece,” she said, “and of course you have to get color swatches to see what different textures and colors look like on different styles. I usually get about six different samples of each shoe, and that takes a lot of money, and then there’s inventory on top of that.”
Like many businesses in Hyde Park, the ABI project is having problems with the global supply chain and inflation. Coutee just paid $2,300 for a recent order of 80 boots from China, down from $1,100-1,500. Sample costs have also increased: his suppliers have told him that they increasingly have to outsource work due to labor shortages on their end.
“It comes back to me,” Coutee said. Many companies she has worked with in the past have accepted partial payments, but many have folded and failed to complete their orders. So she pays all the money up front in hopes of getting a better return on her investment.
“Having that extra money (B2B) really helped,” Coutee said. “I was in a better financial position to pay up front and not have to worry about it because of it,” she said. And I really appreciate it. It was a big weight on my shoulders, because if I didn’t have it in advance, I wouldn’t have been able to get my merchandise, or I would have had to wait until I got all the money.”
While cash helps individual business owners deal with rising costs and unexpected expenses, macroeconomic issues related to supply chains and inflation are at play across the economy. – problems for which state governments, which do not control monetary policy, are less well equipped than the federal government or the Federal Reserve to manage.
Franchise tax reform under the Pritzker administration allowed up to 400,000 small businesses to reduce their state taxes through federal tax deductions, and an apprenticeship tax credit. companies was also created.
Pritzker said his administration has also strengthened Illinois Small Business Development Centers who offer technical assistance to new businesses which he said were significantly reduced under the administration of his predecessor, Governor Bruce Rauner. There are three near Hyde Park, at Build Bronzeville, 5055 S. Prairie Ave., YWCA Metro Chicago, 6144 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, 1750 E. 71st St.
Combining state assistance to child care providers and local government services with BIG and B2B grants, Pritzker said the state provided $1.5 billion in total economic relief. related to the pandemic.