Along with the many challenges that businesses face through the pandemic crisis, owners also find creative ways to serve their clients, generate new revenue streams and strengthen relationships throughout their communities. Saratoga Paint & Sip in Saratoga Springs, NY, is a great example.
Catherine Hover and her husband and co-owner, Mark Hover, have taken direct action to positively impact their business’s stability, despite the closure and uncertainty. Importantly, they secured funding both prior and during the pandemic. This means that they can continue operations – albeit, through a change in how they offer their services – and be well-positioned for a strong start when their business reopens.
Creativity, resilience and revenue
It’s worth noting that before landing in Saratoga, Catherine and Mark lived in New Orleans. “We’d been through Katrina and we rebuilt our lives following that. We learned a lot about inner strength, optimism and looking for new opportunities,” explains Catherine. “It was a terrible time, but we came through stronger, just as I believe small businesses will after the pandemic, if you do everything you need to do to get through it.”
“With Saratoga Sip & Paint, our entire business model was based on providing a highly social experience,” Catherine explains. “Our studio holds events where artists lead groups of people who paint, sip and socialize. We hosted open events as well as private parties, especially milestone events, like engagements, birthdays and anniversaries.”
She continues, “It isn’t just coming in for a glass of wine, it’s sharing an event with others. When you suddenly learn that you can’t offer that anymore, you have two options: panic, or get really creative and responsive.”
Catherine emphasizes two critical areas to focus on: Pivoting services and securing funds.
Secure funding for stability and growth
In 2018, Catherine and Mark applied for funding through Bank of America, and were approved for a $50,000 loan to strengthen the business.
“I believe that owners should always look for ways to fund our businesses,” advises Catherine, “because we need to grow, create and stay ahead of our competitors. It’s not enough to think about funding just when things are tight. You have to consider the opportunities that you can take advantage of, if you have the funds to do it.”
For Catherine and Mark, that meant eventually scaling up to three locations – and then, scaling back when they realized that they got the most financial return on the Saratoga studio. The decision meant that they could also spend more time with their expanded family, which includes three children who were born since the first location opened in 2012.
Build relationships with lenders
Later, when they applied for additional funding, Bank of America wanted to help again. However, Saratoga Paint & Sip had reached the maximum of what the bank’s guidelines would allow them to approve.
That’s when their banker put them in touch with Pursuit where they were approved for a $50,000 SBA Microloan.
“Small business owners are often advised to build good relationships with their commercial lenders and this is one example of why that’s so important. We have a great relationship with our bank and they wanted to help, so when they couldn’t do more for us directly, they put us in touch with Pursuit, who could. We’re really fortunate that we had a bank that believed in us and that knew exactly who we needed to talk to next.”
Catherine continues, “When the business-closure order came out, we didn’t hesitate to get in touch with Pursuit again.” Within a week, they were approved for and received a $25,000 working capital loan.
“They made it so easy and we had the money in a few days,” says Catherine. “That relieved so much of the stress that we see other businesses going through now. If I had one piece of advice, it’d be to call Pursuit and find out how they can help you. They’re incredible to work with. They really understand the needs that small businesses have and that money in-hand, quickly, makes all the difference.”
“Within two weeks of the closure, we got our business to a point, financially, where we feel confident in our ability to get through this and to come out stronger,” she adds.
Pivot services to meet new needs
With funds in place, they could also innovate around newfound opportunities.
With three young children at home, Catherine knows how challenging it is for parents to fill the days. She and Mark realized that with a studio full of painting supplies, they could package painting kits for purchase online.
“I never imagined that a business I considered to be all about the magic of engaging with others onsite could have a flip side in isolation, but that’s exactly what happened,” she says. “We reached out to our clients and followers – we have an email list of 20,000 – to let them know that we’d offer curbside pickup of the painting kits twice a week and then do a Facebook Live painting class. We’ve sold out every time. We’re helping people meet an unanticipated need to keep kids and adults engaged, creative and positive. It’s working really well.”
Catherine adds that they’ll continue this new revenue stream after the studio reopens. “Through this experience, we’ve served a whole new demographic – people who actually don’t want to do the group-painting experience, but still want to have fun painting. It’s really opened my eyes to a clientele that we hadn’t reached before. And the potential to scale this is amazing.”
Look ahead with optimism and excitement
“We’ve learned a lot. We’ve had tremendous support from our customers and community and our lenders. It’s great to know that they believe in our business as much as we do and that they’re supporting us through this, just as we aim to support our community,” says Catherine.
“The pandemic is devastating in so many ways,” admits Catherine. “It’s traumatic for everyone. Still, we’re in this together and we’ll get through this together. There are a lot of lessons that we can learn through this. As business owners, everything we do every day has value and purpose. How we act and respond now, both as individual businesses and as part of our communities, will determine our futures.”