In response to a massive number of applicants and donor support, the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce has doubled its fundraising goal to $100,000.
When Louise Dockstader learned that her downtown Mill Valley arts & crafts hub Once Around had garnered a $1,000 direct cash grant via the Mill Valley Chamber’s COVID-19 MV Business Fund, she left no doubt about the impact of even a modest grant amidst an unquestionably dire economic circumstance.
“It’s an absolute miracle – when we all need miracles,” said Dockstader, whose business has been deemed non-essential but who hasn’t exactly been sitting by idly during the coronavirus outbreak. “Thank you to the people of Mill Valley and the Chamber. When I saw that people were donating $1,000 at a time, I almost cried.”
Chelsea Hutchison, co-owner of BŌL superfood cafe, who innovated quickly in the early days of the shelter in place order by launching the Pay It Forward program, allowing residents to donate meals to frontline workers and first responders, which Hutchison delivered personally, went even further: “I just burst into tears,” she wrote. “I deeply appreciate this generosity from our amazing community.”
In just 10 days since the Chamber launched the fund via GoFundMe to generate as many $1,000 direct cash grants to local businesses as possible, Mill Valley residents have stepped up beyond expectations, raising more than $46,000 and thus funding at least 46 grants. More than a dozen of those recipients have already received their grants, and many more are on the way this week.
More than a dozen local businesses, each of whom met basic criteria and applied on a first come, first served basis, have received their checks, with dozens more on the way. All recipients are required to complete a W9 IRS form identifying their business.
The fund’s goal was modest and straightforward, says MV Chamber co-director Paula Reynolds.
“We’d spent the weeks prior to the launch relentlessly focusing on two tracks: inform local businesses about every form of relief possible, and use the megaphone of the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog to be sure that the entire 94941 community knew which businesses were open, closed or somewhere in between, as so many have leveraged the digital and virtual worlds with nimble creativity.”
But as the stories from local business owners came flooding in about the amorphous, ever-changing application process for Economic Impact Disaster Loans and the subsequent PPP “loans to grants” plan through the Small Business Administration, Reynolds said she knew that “we needed to do more, and fast. Cash flow is everything in this moment, and these direct cash grants can be used however the business owner needs to stay on their feet.”
The campaign went live on April 10, and donations began flooding in immediately.
Sofia Jewelry owners Sophie and Lucas Priolo, who transitioned their “non-essential business” quickly into a “virtual boutique” over the past several weeks, open for shopping via Zoom and Facebook Live as well as pickup appraisals and repairs, plan to pass along the COVID-19 grant directly to their employees.
“Our goal through all of this is to keep them employed so Sofia Jewelry can continue to be a part of Mill Valley for the next 26 years, and beyond!” Sophie Priolo said. “We are doing the best we can given the circumstances, but this is not something that we can sustain long term. We are a family business –this is personal for us.”
They’d applied via both EIDL and PPP, and were denied for the PPP from one bank because “they were prioritizing larger loans with more employees.” They hope that the White House and Congress can strike a deal this week on injecting another $350 billion ($300 billion PPP, $50 billion EIDL) into small business relief, and with their application already in the queue.
Fellow jeweler Johanna Becker, owner of Moonstruck Fine Jewelry, is in virtually the same situation.
“The grant will not only help keep the lights on, so to speak, but it gives me moral support and feelings of connectivity to such a wonderful community,” she said. “It warms my heart.”
The business model of the Hivery, the female-fueled “co-working space and inspiration lab” opened nearly four years ago by Grace Kraaijvanger, is deeply rooted in in-person collaboration, workshops and gatherings. Amidst the shelter in place order, now is most certainly not business-as-usual for a business that relies on that in-person connection. The Hivery closed its doors when the order was issued, but has transitioned to a Virtual Membership + Online Community.
“This closure has been immensely challenging,” Kraaijvanger said. “So much of what we ‘sell’ is the feeling of belonging, mentorship, support, and community that comes in a shared space and shared experience.
Kraaijvanger applied via both federal programs on the day they went live but hasn’t heard back, and also applied for other local grants, women-owned business grants, and “everything we can find that’s relevant. We are fighting to keep this dream (and the impact it’s created for so many in our community) alive so that it can thrive and continue to be of service in the future,” she said.
“I’m so grateful for these funds, not just for their financial impact, but also for the boost of spirit that I got from being supported by my community,” Kraaijvanger said. “These funds help us to continue growing our virtual membership and I’m so grateful for that.”
Hillel and Chana Scop have long been spiritual leaders in Marin via their spearheading Chabad Mill Valley, the local chapter of one of the largest Hasidic groups and Jewish religious organizations in the world, for more than 18 years. That multi-faceted space – dubbed Brooklyn – is part retail, part community gathering place and educational center, and like the Hivery, very much dependent on physical gatherings. They applied via EIDL and PPP and are awaiting next steps from the federal government. In the meantime, the grant “will provide some immediate relief towards ongoing overhead at Brooklyn,” Rabbi Hillel Scop said.
“Not a nickel of the funds raised will go to the Mill Valley Chamber,” Reynolds said. “This is one more way we are trying to help an incredible community in pain.”
(Story courtesy of Enjoy Mill Valley Blog.)