Finding help after Irma
Since hurricanes are the only natural disasters you can see coming several days in advance, there’s really no excuse not to be prepared ... unless it’s been 12 years since the last major storm made landfall and this one decides to blanket the entire state.
Say hello to Hurricane Irma … and to some business owners who weathered her wrath thanks to the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, along with Florida First Capital Corporation and the Florida SBDC Network, this program provides short-term, interest-free working capital loans to help businesses “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and insurance claims or federal assistance can kick in.
Carbon Marine • Tampa
Established in 2007, Carbon Marine manufactures products for in-shore, shallow-water fishing. Its customers are along Florida’s Gulf Coast, from Tampa to Key West. When Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane, owner Joseph Welbourn estimates she wiped out close to 90% of his customer base. “I never thought through the consequences this would have on the business.” With help from the Florida SBDC at USF, he secured a Bridge Loan which helped him stay solvent while his customers, all of whom had been equally impacted, could recover themselves.
BK Construction Services • Brooksville
Since its founding in 1988, BK Construction Services has grown to become one of central Florida’s premier commercial parking lot maintenance, site development and infrastructure repair companies. “We were spared any loss of equipment and facilities,” says owner Walter Chappas; his customers and vendors were not so lucky. Their losses put a serious dent in BK’s workload and, says Chappas, “So severe was this loss, it posed an existential threat to our company.” He reached out to the Florida SBDC at USF for help. Result: “The Emergency Bridge Loan saved our company and the jobs of our 15 employees.”
inVINCibles Paintball Park • Port St. Lucie
inVINCibles Paintball Park, a 35-acre extreme sports park where leadership and teamwork skills are taught on three obstacle-filled fields, took a hard hit from Irma. “The hurricane came in with a vengeance and tore apart our netting, flooded our onsite storage containers and ruined everything from air compressors to paintballs. We were losing money every day,” says owner Vince Cloe. He turned to consultants from Florida SBDC at Indian River State College for help completing the applications for short- and long-term loans to repair and replace needed equipment and supplies. “Without their help,” says Cloe, “it would have taken me a lot longer to get up and running again. I am beyond thankful.”
Joshua Citrus Inc. • Arcadia
Kevin and Lynn Shelfer, owners of Joshua Citrus, were getting ready to pick their first fruit of the season when Hurricane Irma paid a call. By the time the storm passed through the 120-acre grove that had belonged to the Shelfer family for a century, 100% of the navels and grapefruit were ruined. Almost all of what had been a promising crop lay on the ground, and the rest was badly banged up and not worth picking. Through industry contacts, the Shelfers heard about Bridge Loans and secured one as quickly as they could with the help of the Florida SBDC at USF. Says Kevin, “The fruit we lost is the first fruit we normally pick, so we had no income right away. This helped us get caught up on bills.”
Beg for More Japanese Thai Tapas • Fort Lauderdale
Seemingly small expenses have a way of ballooning in the aftermath of disaster. So while damage to just two windows at Beg for More doesn’t seem like much compared to the widespread devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma all across Florida, it was a big deal to owner Surissada Sothiwanwongse. With shattered windows, she couldn’t re-open her restaurant, which meant she earned no income, which meant she couldn’t make payroll. An Emergency Bridge Loan secured through Florida SBDC at FAU put Beg for More back in business by covering the cost of windows, furniture, equipment and loss of income. “I am so grateful,” she says.