How this Richmond small business owner is surviving COVID-19

Posted at 12:07 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 12:30:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- For years, Jair Barbour has dreamed of owning her own business. The Virginia State University graduate buckled down after graduation and started her own boutique.

UnLuvd Boutique on Cary Street immediately snagged the attention of VCU students.

Barbour never imagined a few months ago, on her boutique`s second anniversary, COVID-19 would bring everything to a screeching halt.

She had to close her doors, but wasted no time coming up with a strategy. She took her show on the road and online.

"I did the website, updated it, put new inventory on and it was like, people just were shopping," she said. "Prior to corona I wanted to do a mobile truck. So I said,. this is the perfect time."

Barbour said that online boost, plus a lifeline she received through a Chamber RVA Facebook small business grant, helped UnLuvd and UnLuvd remix stay afloat.

Chamber RVA's Brian Anderson said they awarded $2,500 grants to 100 small businesses in the area.

"Small businesses rarely have huge reserves," Anderson said. "They maybe pay themselves a small salary. They get to the end of the year and if there's any profit, that's what they live on. And so this was not a case where they could go eight or 10 weeks with no income. So we knew going into this there was going to be a tremendous need."

Though that money is gone, Anderson says Chamber RVA is planning another small business relief initiative with Metropolitan Business League, Central Virginia African American Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Community Capital, and Venture Richmond.

"What you will see coming forward, pretty soon, is a larger fund that a lot of people have given to, but is executed through Venture Richmond and the Metropolitan Business League," Anderson said. "Those are great organizations that can reach a lot more smaller businesses and we are happy to partner."

Other localities implemented relief programs for businesses.

In Ashland, officials recently infused $35,000 as part of its` grant program, assisting more than two dozen businesses with grants to cover safety enhancement expenses.

The City of Richmond offered small business loans.

Barbour is grateful there are relief programs and now that she` has reopened, she is focusing on the future and encourages others to be creative about taking their business to the next level during the pandemic.

"Whatever you can do to adapt to the time figure it out," she said.

In Chesterfield, officials allocated $5 million in CARES Act money for small business relief.

They are now on round two of the grant cycle, awarding $5,000 to $10,000 in grants.

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