Amy Dritz and Kelly Winters have a lot in common.
They both grew up in Canby, a town of less than 2,000 in Southwestern Minnesota and have known each other since middle school. The two also decided to start their own business in the Twin Cities.
Another common thread between the two? Both have first-hand knowledge of the hardships faced by sole proprietors during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
“As a sole proprietor, you’re always kind of at the whim of your clients and their work,” said Dritz. “There’s just so much uncertainty.”
Pictured: Amy Dritz and Kelly Winters
Patterson Writing Consulting provides communications services, including grant-writing, to nonprofits. Dritz has a background in sustainability and creates design projects for clean-energy companies.
In March, Winters started getting emails from clients who said they needed to stop using her services. Tight budgets were forcing them to do the work in-house instead of hiring out. Winters said that because nonprofits – her main client base – were hit hard, so was she.
“Two of my clients vanished overnight because their one revenue-generating activity was part of the shutdown,” said Winters. “They had to furlough almost all of their employees.”
Dritz said her experience has been similar – clients faced economic uncertainty due to COVID-19 and therefore had to suspend their projects. Marketing is often one of the first things to go when budgets are reconfigured, said Dritz.
But for now, both Dritz and Winters are still in business thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal aid program put in place to help businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus.
“The PPP loan was definitely a stopgap to get me through these couple of months so I can pay my bills and office space and utilities,” said Dritz.
The funds allowed Winters to offer discounted services for some clients.
“(The loan) is allowing me to meet the needs of the community,” said Winters. “Without it, I’m not able to help my clients and my clients can’t access the services they need. It has ripple effects.”
Now, after receiving the loans, both Dritz and Winters will need to navigate the forgiveness process. The SBA released a forgiveness application on May 15. While the application is a first step in clarifying what business owners need to do to avoid paying back their loans, it poses questions, too.
The SBA is expected to come out with further guidance on forgiveness in the near future.
And as sole proprietors, the task of figuring out loan forgiveness may be more difficult for Dritz and Winters. As Winters points out, they don’t have the resources that larger companies do.
“We don’t have a staff of accountants and a staff of lawyers filling out our applications for us,” she said.