Small business owners across Georgia are struggling to figure out how to stay afloat as they're ordered to close down, or demand for businesses vanishes because of the coronavirus.
Courtney DeDi owns DiOGi pet services and training. She is an optimist, but this has hit her hard.
"About a week ago, I started to cry. And I would run in to clients and they would say, how are you... I was holding it back on my own, but as soon as they asked, the flood gates just crumble at their front door," she said.
She's owned DiOGi Pet Services and Training for 10 years.
"I'm not one to ask for help ever... but just reaching out and being really vulnerable with our client base... they're coming and stepping up big time for the business that has supported them," she said.
She says her dog walking, daycare, and boarding business evaporated as people stopped traveling and started staying home all day. Now she's trying to figure out how to keep her business afloat, and what support she can get from the Government.
"I read the whole house bill from beginning to end, it made no sense. There were pieces that contradicted each other, so a lot of the time I was like, I'm not really sure how this applies, does it not apply to me," she said.
For the past week, she's been trying to find exactly what's available to help keep her doors open.
"Following our Mayor here on Twitter locally, she's sending out information that makes a lot of sense. A lot of legislation is difficult to read," she said.
She was on a call with the Federal Small Business Association this morning, learning how to apply for an emergency loan that will help cover expenses until her business rebounds.
She said all small business owners need to advocate for themselves right now.
"I say the best thing is to go right to your chamber of commerce, or go to the SBA's website. Go to the direct source of information. If you don't understand, pick up the phone or send an email, that's really the best way to get information. And people are more than willing to stop and explain things step by step," she said.
With a little help, she believes small businesses can survive.
"I'm being really positive and saying that we are pushing through," she said.
She's most concerned with keeping her employees cared for now. They all love dogs as much as she does. Owning a dog walking, daycare, boarding facility means she needs people who can still do those things.
"I'm not one of the NBA owners who can say, I'm going to pay all of your wages, go home and be safe. That's really what I would love to do, but I don't have the luxury of doing that. I have to keep pushing through. I have to keep making money. I have a doggy daycare rent that has to be paid April 1st, so we just have to make it through," she said.
She's trying to stay open and navigate her way through the small business regulations, which would require her to pay all of her employees full wages for two weeks if they did close.
"If we were mandated to close our doors, I would have to pay the 14 day sick leave, which would be crippling to my business," she said.
She has had to lay off some employees, and is trying to keep everyone she can on staff for as long as she can.
"I'm relating to them on a real human to human level. Ask your credit card if your bills can be pushed, ask your landlord if they can apply rent to the end of your lease. Anything that I know, any information that I have that would be valuable to them, I have been providing that," she said.
The Department of Labor just sent a notice that any small business that has had to reduce their hours because of the virus can apply for partial unemployment for their workers.
It "has been a huge relief to me because now I know that they're going to be ok, they're going to make their bills," she said.
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