MORRIS COUNTY — Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) hosted a virtual roundtable discussion this week with Black small business owners in the community to hear about the challenges facing small businesses during COVID-19, their experiences with the PPP and EIDL programs, and issues business owners anticipate as we move to the fall and winter months. This August is the 14th Annual National Black Business Month, and the business owners on the call highlighted the strength of the Black-owned small business community in North Jersey across different sectors.
“The Black small business owners in our community that I heard from this week have had to pivot their business models during COVID, and some have even launched entirely new businesses during this unprecedented time,” said Rep. Sherrill. “While some were able to access PPP, EIDL, and state grants, it’s clear we need to do more to support our small business community here in North Jersey, including Black-owned businesses. These business owners are already anticipating what the fall and winter will look like, and the resources necessary to adapt once again. The next round of coronavirus legislation must include additional resources and extended deadlines for the PPP. I also want to see us pass legislation like the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act that will help small businesses with steep declines to their revenue and prioritize underserved businesses in the Black community.”
“I am very appreciative that Mikie Sherrill organized this round table,” said Denise Ford Sawadogo, Montclair Brewery. “It was great to share a few of the frustrations with the federal and state funding and grants that were earmarked for small businesses due to Covid-19. At the same time, I thought it was important to mention some of the supportive measures that the Governor has put into place to help microbreweries in the state. I hope that some of these temporary measures will become laws on a permanent basis which should help modernize NJ’s antiquated brewery laws. It was also great to meet some other small black-owned businesses in the state, the majority of whom I was not familiar with.”
“The pandemic was quite a paradigm shift for all of us,” said Isaiah Findley-Pinnock, Co-Founder of ESO Artisanal Pasta. “AJ lost his job and I was furloughed but for the first time in years we, along with Joel, were able to take a serious look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves what we want to do and be, and where we see ourselves in the future.” The answer was written in their brotherhood, passion, and optimism. “Sometimes you have to make opportunity for yourself,” Isaiah continued to say. “Starting a business was always a dream for us. Once the pandemic brought us closer together by pulling us from our jobs, our optimism helped us pivot our ideal business model to fit the changing social climate. Now we sell an experience that is important to us and our brotherhood; that is a nice family-oriented, communal, culinary dining experience.”
“The pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for our event management company,” said Lori Montague, Wood Legacy Productions. “We’ve had to reinvent our structure to stay afloat. It’s reassuring to have Congresswoman Sherrill take a hands-on approach to help us navigate through this season.
“Small businesses need support as they collectively keep the spirits of towns and cities alive, as well as give back to their respective communities and neighboring businesses,” said Eugene Lennon-Wynn and Brandon Baskerville, Empyre9. “Especially in Black communities, the small Black-owned businesses surviving the pandemic continue to provide for and inspire the townspeople. Not every business has the room to remodel their business in accordance with COVID-19 so any and all support will be appreciated.”
“I’m tremendously grateful that Mikie Sherrill offered this Roundtable,” said Casey Carpenter, Speak & Own It Communications. “As a solopreneur marketing service and not a product sold from a brick and mortar, I often feel overlooked. With a business that’s too small to qualify for much of the relief already offered, I felt that Sherrill really listened to my concerns about equity and viability. She gave me hope. I feel honored that she is rolling up her sleeves on our behalf.”
“Speaking directly with Sherrill I felt heard, and that her office can help me navigate the bureaucracy of Covid-19 relief programs to get results,” said Leslie Allen, Win4Life Enterprises, and West End Residential. “The empowering side benefit of her round table was to meet fellow black business owners that I can support; two right here in my town! Together we are stronger.”
“Sherrill has a passion to help local black small business owners and I am thankful for the support she is offering,” said Hakika DuBose Wise, Kika Stretch Studios.
Representative Sherrill was joined by the following business owners:
Denise Ford Sawadogo, Montclair Brewery
Hakika DuBose Wise, Kika Stretch Studios, Montclair
Leslie Allen, Win4Life Enterprises and West End Residential
Casey Carpenter, Speak & Own It Communications
Isaiah Findley-Pinnock, Eso Artisanal Pasta, Morristown
Eugene Lennon-Wynn and Brandon Baskerville, Empyre9, Totowa
Lori Montague, Wood Legacy Productions
Rep. Sherrill has continued her advocacy for the NJ-11 small business community throughout the pandemic. This week, she co-sponsored the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program (P4) Act (H.R. 7241). This legislation will allow small businesses with under 100 employees who have seen revenue declines of at least 50% to apply for a 2nd PPP loan and would extend the decline to apply for an initial PPP loan to the end of this year. It would require the SBA to issue guidance to lenders instructing them to prioritize lending to underserved businesses — given that Black-owned small businesses were greatly underserved by the initial round of PPP loans, this will directly allow them to receive priority this round. The P4 also requires the Small Business Administration to collect demographic information about PPP recipients.