April 20, 2020
You hangin in there? That’s kind of our go to greeting these days. “What’s up” or “how was your weekend” just don’t really work right now.
It’s kind of a rollercoaster of emotions over here! Some days are easier than others. Some hours are easier than others. You all know how it is. It’s strange times, but we feel incredibly lucky that we’re in our cozy home with our pups & kitties and that our loved ones are safe.
Some folks have asked how Kin Ship is doing during all of this. And while we hesitate to even write about it because it feels trivial compared to other things that people are dealing with right now, we do think it’s good for folks to share their experiences because maybe it helps someone else going through the same thing feel a little less alone.
Honestly, we feel guilty even thinking about our business right now. But we know that in order for it to be around after all of this, we hafta think about it. We’re just so thankful for everyone who is out there getting us through this right now. They’re doing the hard work—saving lives and making sure we all have food and supplies. We want to be there for them after this, even if it’s just in some tiny way, like offering something cozy to wear or a welcoming place to visit.
So, now for a kind of long Kin Ship update.
We’re hangin in there. As some of you know, we decided to temporarily close our storefront on March 13th. West Virginia was the only state with no reported cases at the time, but c’mon, most people weren’t buying that. We didn’t want to put our staff or customers at risk, so we closed up. We kept our online shop open & the two of us have started shipping orders. Slowly, but surely.
In the meantime, the bills haven’t stopped coming. Rent, utilities, insurance, invoices for merchandise we had ordered before this started, monthly taxes, accounting bills, etc. All of that still has to be paid. The one thing that we aren’t paying for right now, but actually wish we were, is payroll to our twelve employees.
When we decided to close, we told our staff that we’d pay them their full salary for two weeks and then we would see where we were. After the first week, it became clear that this was going to last a lot longer than two weeks and there was no way we could afford to keep paying everyone (including ourselves) without the storefront being open. So, we had to make the very difficult decision to furlough everyone until we’re able to safely reopen. We know this situation is totally out of our control, but we can’t help but feel like we let our team down. The whole staff has filed for unemployment, but no one has received it yet. We’ve personally loaned money to those of them that need it in the meantime to cover their basic living expenses. None of us know when they’ll actually start receiving unemployment. Hopefully soon!
Filing for unemployment online is pretty easy, but, once you’ve clicked submit, you’re pretty much in the dark. You don’t know what the process is, what the next step is, or how long it’s going to take. Trying to reach someone at the unemployment office right now is not easy. We keep getting busy signals or an automated recording that says to call back later. I’m sure the staff there is totally overwhelmed. We feel for them & aren’t frustrated with them. We’re more upset with, you know, this broken system.
Speaking of broken systems, we’ve also spent a lot of time this past month trying to navigate the CARES Act loan process. You’ve probably heard about it—the $376 billion that’s going to provide relief for small businesses across the country.
Well…it’s a real shit show.
We’ve spent hours on the phone with bankers, accountants, and other small business owners and it seems like no one knows what’s going on or has any solid information.
The first thing we applied for was the $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance. That one was promoted as being “available within days” and “will not have to be repaid.” We submitted our application, didn’t hear anything for a few weeks and then got a very vague email giving an “update” on the loan that said it might actually only be $1,000 instead of $10,000 and it would be deposited shortly after we submitted the full application. Which I thought we did?
The second loan that we applied for was the Paycheck Protection Program. This one was supposed to be a loan with .5% interest that you pay back over ten years. The loan will be forgiven if you use it on payroll, rent, or utilities. The application had to be submitted to a bank, which then works with the SBA to fund the loan. Our bank hadn’t decided if they were participating in the program. Apparently that was the case for a lot of banks. They had very little information and weren’t even sure how the application process would work. We heard that Chase Bank was going to process applications, so we contacted them, but we were told that they were only taking applications from businesses that had a checking account with them that had been opened before March.
Our bank decided to participate the day before the applications opened. The finalized loan application wasn’t available from the SBA until the night before they could be submitted. Luckily, we’d been working ahead of time with our banker (who actually is very helpful and cares about our business) to make sure we had all the documentation that we might need to send in with the application. We submitted everything. And we haven’t heard a peep back from the SBA.
We did read that now the loan now has 1% interest and has to be paid back in 2 years, instead of 10 years. These last minute changes make us a little apprehensive that, when it comes down to it, the loans won’t actually be forgiven like originally promised. And the thought of taking on more debt in such an uncertain time makes us kinda worried.
But, none of that really even matters right now because on Thursday we saw on the news that both loan programs ran out of money. And a lot of that money went to multimillion dollar companies with over 500 employees. You know, SMALL businesses.
We started this year with a lot of big plans. We were in the very long process of buying a building in our neighborhood, which would be the new home of Kin Ship and Base Camp Printing. We were supposed to close on it earlier this month. We really wanted to invest in our community and own a building in the neighborhood. Our staff had grown from 2 to 12 and we needed more space. Plus, we’ve put so much love and work into the spaces that we rent, but they’re always owned by other people. We thought maybe it was time that we owned the space that we put so much of our time and energy into. We also had another business in the works that we were planning on opening in the new building. We were going to rent out some of the extra space to other small businesses that we were really excited about having in the neighborhooad. I’m using past tense here because we don’t know what’s happening with any of that now. We had been saving money for the down payment, but now that money is being used for just surviving this.
But, like we said before, worrying about our business right now feels very small in comparison to what other people are dealing with. We certainly know there are way bigger losses happening right now than us maybe not getting to buy a building. But, maybe it’s still ok for us to be sad about it. You can be sad at more than one thing at a time. Turns out, you can be sad about a million things at a time.
Even with all this sadness and grief, we don’t feel hopeless. Far from it. We know that we’re scrappy and will get through this. We know that we’re all in this together and there are so many people in the world helping others. Every day we read about selfless acts of kindness, reminding us of the goodness that’s still out there. We take turns checking in on each other with our families, neighbors, and friends near and far. There is lots of love and care being passed through the wires.
We see people in our city looking out for each other and feel so lucky to be part of our community. We know we’re not alone in this and that countless small business owners are struggling out there. We’re lucky that we still have the ability to make and sell things online and we wanna use that to help some of the local businesses that mean a lot to us. And that’s why we’re launching a little project this week that we hope will help relieve some of the burden on small businesses in our area, even if just a little bit. Stay tuned.
And if you’ve made it to the end of this, thank you.
Stay safe. Stay cozy.❤️
Hillary & Dan
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