The negative financial news piled up quickly across the U.S. on Thursday, led by published reports of the Small Business Administration running out of money for its Paycheck Protection Program.
Nearly $350 billion had been earmarked for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to provide loans to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. The money was allocated quickly, with more than 1.4 million loans already approved as of Wednesday evening, as small businesses struggle with virus-induced quarantines and closings.
Couple that with another 5.2 million workers who filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and you have an economy with initial jobless claims exceeding 22 million since March 14.
Sundance Jewelers has been a member of the East Lansing small business community for nearly 50 years. The emergency shutdown and social distancing guidelines in place for the past month have presented a unique set of challenges for the Yonkus family, whose three generations have run the store.
“So much of what we do for our customers involves not only a financial commitment but an emotional attachment, too,” Bill Yonkus Jr. told ELi this week. “We want to make sure they know their items are safe with us. If they need the items returned, we can make that happen, too. It’s important for us to maintain that confidence level with our customers.”
But Sundance’s ability to communicate electronically with its client base became even more challenging – and doubly frustrating – this week, when multiple email updates landed in the spam folders of intended recipients.
“We’ve sent maybe five or six email campaigns in a span of two years,” Audrey Yonkus said, “and for it to happen now, going straight to spam, is really unfortunate. At a time when it’s difficult to reach customers, or to advertise, we certainly didn’t expect this.”
The Yonkus family shared their letter with us, and you can see it here. How can they reach their customers now? Phone calls?
“Yes, we thought about that,” Bill said, “but we felt like that might be intrusive, in the midst of something of this significance, to call someone and potentially interrupt them at a particular time. We’re just trying to find a happy medium.”
This is the reason they reached out to ELi with their story.
Sundance has been particularly hard hit with the closure of MSU’s online classes as well as the Stay-at-Home order. Spring is a big season for Sundance, with graduation gifts, engagements, and anniversaries.
Bill described for ELi the hurdles his business has tried to clear in obtaining emergency funding through the Small Business Administration, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), and the Paycheck Protection Program. The result? Many phone calls, more forms to fill out, long wait times, and zero money.
But he’s not complaining.
“Obviously, I’m not the only one going through this,” Yonkus said. “We’re considered to be a non-essential business, so our hands have become tied. We’re going to be open when the time comes; everything in our shop is safe. If you [the customer] want these items in your possession now, we’ll do everything we can to facilitate your needs.”
Audrey Yonkus shared with us these images from their current collection. If you want to reach Bill or Audrey, click here for contact info.