JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating millions of jobs across the nation. The US Small Business Administration says there are more than 31 million small businesses in the nation.
As businesses struggle to get back on their feet post-lockdown, there are some organizations trying to keep them afloat.
Jacksonville was once called the second-best city in the country for small businesses. That was back in 2015.
LISC Jacksonville is continuing to foster the pro-small business environment, specifically in urban core neighborhoods, by giving $500,000 in grants and loans. Bark on Park is one business that has them to thank.
“I worked for so many different (jobs)," owner Jamee Yocum-Pittman said. "I went to school for art. I worked for a medical company. I was a bartender at one point and I was like I can’t. I want to do something of my own.”
Yocum-Pittman says she was 24 years old when she opened Bark on Park in Five Points and eventually Bark on Main in Springfield. When the pandemic shut her business down for a month, she says giving up was not an option.
The business was down 75%.
Her husband and co-owner, Matt Pittman, says they pivoted turning to online sales as much as they could.
“To say that COVID had a major impact on our small businesses is a huge understatement," Pittman said.
Sometimes you need some extra help in the form of a $10,000 grant. After nine months of scraping by, they received a grant from LISC Jacksonville that they say is life-changing.
“No strings attached," said Chuck Shealy with LISC Jacksonville. "We know you‘ve had problems and we are trying to help out.”
Shealy describes LISC Jacksonville as an organization that connects small businesses in urban core areas to money. This $500,000 came from Wells Fargo.
“Businesses are the heartbeats of our communities," said Valerie Jenkins with Wells Fargo. "When they are successful, so are the communities where they live and work.”
Jenkins explained that the money comes from the $400 million dollar Open For Business fund that was created in 2020.
The money that was given to LISC Jacksonville has been split up into two: grants and zero-interest loans. Altogether it has helped 28 businesses in Jacksonville.