ANDERSON — Jason Tello went into the new year in January 2020 expecting to build a new Anderson-based business after building and designing structures for the entertainment industry and making connections since he was a teen.
But almost as soon as he got T6 Truss Designs to take flight, his limited liability corporation was grounded because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our industry stopped. There were no concerts, no corporate events, no gatherings of any size, so it definitely affected our business,” he said.
T6 Truss Designs is among hundreds of Madison County businesses that relied on the two rounds of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans offered in spring 2020 and 2021. Though they could be used for a variety of business-related expenses, including utilities, debt interest and health care, the majority of companies, including T6 Truss Design, appeared to report the money has been used for payroll.
It was the $77,200 and $45,300 in federal PPP loans T6 Truss Designs was able to obtain through Star Financial Bank that enabled the company to stay afloat as the world waited for the arrival of vaccines that would allow businesses to reopen and people to venture out again, Tello said. Going into survival mode, he said, the company’s staff was reduced from 15 employees to three.
“That, in my opinion, has been the savior of our business,” he said.
Inquiries, Tello said, once again are starting to turn into orders.
“Things are opening up,” he said. “It’s getting a little better but it’s a long road to go. We’re hoping there is a rush, but that is yet to be seen.”
In spite of the challenges his fledgling company has faced over the past year because of the pandemic, Tello said he doesn’t believe he would do anything differently.
“To be honest, I think I still would have tried to start this business when I did,” he said. “I just had the drive to move forward, the drive to succeed. Without that jump, you never know, and I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind jumping.”
With watches and phones confiscated, Kim Bourke had lost track of the outside world last March while attending a weekend church retreat in Gas City. But once released, she found the world had changed suddenly as Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued emergency orders for Hoosiers to remain at home if their jobs weren’t considered essential, as defined by the orders.
“When we got out there, it was quite a shock,” she said. “It was happening pretty quick. The next week or so it was when it started and people said, ‘We’re going to keep the kids at home.’”
Without the $15,435 in PPP money, Bourke said, the legacy she tried to build since 2016 at Lapel’s Olevia’s Gingersnaps would have evaporated. The day care honors an aunt who once owned one of the houses used for the care of the children while their parents work.
“She always enjoyed kids and we said, “One day we may even make your house into a day care,” she said. “This house does make it feel homey. It’s kind of like being at Grandma’s.”
Bourke said she learned of the PPP loans through her bank. Though it helped, there might be a downside, she said.
“I haven’t seen what this will do to our taxes. You might not be able to claim this because you used this loan,” she said.
Though some of the 28 children continued to come after the start of the pandemic, most did not, requiring Bourke to reduce her staff to one additional employee. The other two, she said, were older women who weren’t interested in possibly exposing themselves to the coronavirus.
“This last year was kind of tough because we were down to very few kids,” she said. “As the parents started working more, we have gotten several back. It’s starting to pick up a little bit now. It seems like I am getting some calls lately.”
The five weeks that cover spring break for school districts in Madison and surrounding counties typically have proven to be among the highest revenue-producing periods of the fiscal year for Key’s Kanine Kountry Klub in Alexandria. But that changed in 2020 as the 7-year-old company’s owner, Anita KeyBrobst, started fielding cancellations starting in January.
“We just went dead in the water,” she said. “We had tons of reservations for spring break, and all of them canceled.”
The frantic clients also wondered about the nonrefundable deposits they made for those 150 reservations.
“I couldn’t keep the money. I couldn’t do that to my clients. It wasn’t their fault they had to cancel,” she said.
KeyBrobst said she first heard about the possible pandemic in early January but never dreamed it would grow to the proportions it did, shutting down nearly the entire nation. She lost a handful of family members, including her mother, who died during the first week of the state emergency while doing rehab in a nursing home, to COVID-19.
“I prayed that we wouldn’t lose my business, too, after six years of doing really well,” she said.
She applied for $18,098, enough for about 10 weeks of payroll for her eight employees. Not certain how things would go during spring break this year, she also applied for the latest round of PPP loans.
Early on, KeyBrobst’s staff was reduced to her and two part-time assistants. The PPP loans, she said, gave her peace of mind.
“I was able to bring my staff back,” she said.
Business started to pick up again in the fall, with the doggie day care, kennel and grooming service slowly returning to a relatively brisk pace by Christmastime, KeyBrobst said. This spring break, she added, things are almost back to normal.
“This spring break has just opened up,” she said. “They started getting the shots, and they felt comfortable traveling. We have been talking about how busy we have been and we love it.”