Sarah Simmons was lastly celebrating monetary success for her companies simply days earlier than the pandemic shut the nation down.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In March 2020, a Columbia enterprise proprietor was celebrating monetary success. Then, the pandemic started and turned all the pieces the other way up.
In our collection, Surviving COVID: Farm-to-Table, we’re taking a more in-depth have a look at how COVID-19 impacted native farmers and enterprise homeowners.
This story follows Sarah Simmons, CEO of CITY GRIT Hospitality Group, and the way she labored to maintain her enterprise alive.
“My husband and I had been truly in Europe celebrating the corporate changing into worthwhile final February,” mentioned Simmons. “We ended up spending that week in Europe outrunning the coronavirus.”
For Simmons, one of many largest struggles through the pandemic is getting ready for the unknown.
“It is like altering the wheels on a tractor trailer whilst you’re taking place the freeway with a blindfold on,” she defined. “My private battle, except for the large quantities of cash that we have misplaced and the safety that we had been excited to lastly really feel after a few years of constructing a enterprise is, how do you lead once you actually don’t have anything left to present?”
March 10, 2020 Simmons says she despatched out a 5-phase plan for his or her companies primarily based on the standing of COVID-19.
“For the pizza place, we had been like, ‘At this degree we won’t reorder wine, we’ll cease ordering our high-end components’,” she defined.
March 18, they reached section 5 and switched to a household meal takeaway mannequin by March 20.
smallSUGAR in Columbia’s Vista is a farm-to-table all-day café. Their menu creations are primarily based on what native farmers produce.
“We’d give you a plan and a set of menus, then hastily these components weren’t accessible,” mentioned Simmons. “The disruption within the provide chain was super.”
However on the peak of the pandemic, many farmers determined to not plant.
Regardless of the hardships, Simmons nonetheless made time to gave again by delivering 10,000 meals to susceptible group members with the Feed the Metropolis marketing campaign final summer season.
To today, she says all staff remained on the payroll.
“We made the choice early as a result of our firm, after we rebuilt it, we rebuilt it with the aim of giving individuals alternative and breaking them from the poverty cycle,” mentioned Simmons. “So that actually meant from us that we couldn’t, except it was a literal final resort, lay our crew off.”
Her eating places are nonetheless working underneath takeout solely, with outdoors seating.
Simmons says she’s additionally began a brand new supply firm for her companies.
Though she misplaced about 50% of income over the previous 12 months, she says PPP loans and group assist helped her eating places survive.
“We have found out the best way to make a few of that up. Not all of it, however sufficient to maintain everybody employed and to maintain on keepin’ on. We’re actually wanting ahead to with the ability to safely reopen the eating rooms someday sooner or later and getting again to enterprise,” she mentioned. “I really feel like everybody thinks [the pandemic is] over as a result of that is how individuals are beginning to behave. I truly assume for us, the following eight weeks might be gonna be among the hardest.”