Rebound Idaho: Business owner affected by COVID-19 benefits from mentorship through Idaho Women's Business Center

Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 20:16:06-04

BURLEY, Idaho — The Idaho Women's Business Center (IWBC) aims to serve all women, cultures and communities in achieving their professional and entrepreneurial goals. This is an especially important resource, considering how SBA data shows only 18% of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in Idaho went to female-owned businesses so far.

“When you’re newer, and you’re not represented by the majority, everything is harder. And so it’s a barrier to access," said Christy Anna Gerber, Asst. Statewide Outreach Coordinator with IWBC.

Idaho News 6 spoke to one small business owner who says the IWBC is helping her to empower her bottom line during a turbulent recent few months: Melissa Quilantan, owner of Reta Janes Bloomers. She says at first, however, she felt quite intimidated by the SBA loans.

"With my PPP loan, I was like, 'Naw, I’m not gonna do that -- I don’t think I qualify,'" said Quilantan. "You look at the loan application itself, and you’re just like, 'Yeah, I don’t, ugh, forget it."

She says it was her mentor at the IWBC who advised her otherwise, saying, “Fill it out, you need to do this," said Quilantan.

This conversation, she says, helped her anticipate potential losses and prepare her business for them financially.

“And they’re like, 'No — you fit in this category. You are missing out on -- you’re shut down, there’s no proms, there’s no dance recitals, graduations are different, funerals aren’t happening,'" said Quilantan.

“This is where we come in,” said Susie Rios, Statewide Outreach Coordinator, IWBC. “If they didn’t qualify for the PPP, then we’ll let them know about the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan.”

But Quilantan's flower shop ended up receiving the PPP.

“They are really on your side, and they are genuinely concerned. Ya know, 'Is there anything I can do for ya? Do you have any other questions?'"

It’s this same kind of guidance that the IWBC reps say they hope to bring across Idaho.

“We have a concentrated effort to provide information related to resources that are available for those companies that have been affected by COVID-19," said Gerber.

This includes networking opportunities and free to low cost virtual webinars, for example, "which will provide education, training, and business advising," said Rios.

In the meantime, Quilantan says business at her flower shop is starting to pick up a bit.

“Funerals are starting to get back to normal," said Quilantan.

And with IWBC on her side, she says she feels empowered to take things as they come.

“You just go with it. You kinda just go, 'Okay, so we weren’t busy today? We’ll see what tomorrow is -- oh okay we made up for yesterday. So we’re good,'" said Quilantan.

Click here to learn more about the IWBC, and click here to register and join their directory.