Shawnee Forward names grant winners

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
Rachel Melot

A small business grant program recently initiated by Shawnee Forward has resulted in 33 area businesses being awarded funds to offset hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shawnee Forward received 64 eligible applicants.

Of them, just more than half are receiving a portion of $105,000 in funding given by three entities — Pottawatomie County, the City of Shawnee, and the City of Tecumseh.

Award amounts for the businesses that received grants ranged between $2,000 and $5,000 each.

“We found service-type industries to make up the largest request for funding,” Shawnee Forward's Jeremy Davidson said recently.

Awards

• Macarthur Diner — $2,500

• Cuckoo Bird and Dashing T — $2,000

• Bar H Bar Roadhouse — $3,500

• New Ideas Printing — $3,500

• Bayley Coffee — $3,500

• Tecumseh Diner — $2,500

• Lillycat Inc Snacks and Sportsline Nutrition — $2,500

• Extreme Inflatables — $5,000

• Rustic Rose — $3,000

• Star Skate — $5,000

• Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art — $5,000

• Lifted Bungee Studio — $2,500

• Young Men's Christian Association of Shawnee — $5,000

• Greta Madson Enterprises — $3,500

• Trunk Tacos (Sancho Ancho) — $2,500

• Shaughnessy Group — $5,000

• Shawnee Laundry Cleaners — $5,000

• Jae W, Choi, DDS — $3,500

• Suitable for Framing — $2,000

• Schlotzskys (Shawnee) — $2,500

• Shiane Neiman — $2,500

• Around the World with Shawnee Travel — $3,500

• Tom Willoughby (Del Plaza Barber) — $2,500

• Allen Hubbard — $2,500

• The Lunch Box — $3,500

• Amanda Dickson — $2,500

• Johanna Esterling — $2,500

• Marsh Tractor Service — $2,500

• S&N Investments (Broadway Liquor) — $3,500

• Angela Burkhart — $2,500

• Shali Lambert — $2,500

• Kelly Nails — $2,500

• Lena Nails — $2,500

Moving forward

To be able to award the remaining businesses that applied for funds, Shawnee Forward needs an additional $78,000.

Shawnee Forward is now asking for additional funding to help the rest of the small business applicants that missed the cut.

“Pottawatomie County has offered to fund $50,000 of that remaining $78,000 if we can secure an additional $28,000 from the City of Shawnee and City of Tecumseh,” Davidson said.

The grant program

In December Shawnee City Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of awarding funding toward the small business relief program aimed at offsetting some of the struggle the COVID-19 pandemic has had on small businesses locally. The board agreed to use a portion — a requested $50,000 — of its $2.4 million in Cares Act Funds.

The program was proposed to Shawnee's City Commission by Shawnee Forward CEO Rachael Melot.

She also asked other area cities and the county to participate.

Pottawatomie County Commissioners initially offered to double her request, saying they were willing to pony up to $100,000 toward the fund, but in the end determined to match the Shawnee's offering of $50,000.

The City of Tecumseh gave $5,000 toward the effort, as well. Shawnee Forward combined the $105,000 into a single account.

In December Melot said the program was organized very quickly, in hopes that checks could be issued to businesses as soon as January.

The grant application, award process and rubric were vetted by multiple committees and were based on communities the size of Shawnee, she said.

The Shawnee Forward's grant plan was unique.

“This grant (in the rubric and application criteria) is based on what investments a business is making to stay open,” she explained. “What we saw, when we were applying for EIDL and PPP, it was all based on showing loss within a particular time period.”

She said, unfortunately, that criteria does not accurately reflect a business owner's loss.

“It's not fair to everybody, because whatever that time period is, may not actually reflect your billing cycle and your pain,” she said. “If you had to show a loss in second quarter, you may be receiving all your billing from what you did in first quarter, but if you're doing zero billing in second quarter, you're actually taking the hit in the third, so you didn't qualify because you didn't show the loss at the right time.”

What Shawnee Forward proposed is that businesses actually put forth their plan of investment. “We are asking them to show that they were in business this year,” she said. “Not that they were open, because, quite frankly, some of them were mandated closed, but did they try to remain in business?”

There are some small businesses in the community that had to close their door for periods of days, she said, but they took that opportunity to invest in their online presence and their digital media, and they were able to remain open.

“We don't want to penalize them because they were creative,” Melot said. “This application process actually allows people to just show us what they have invested, what they plan to invest and how they think that's going to help them remain sustainable and open.”

She said what they want to do is help people who have made it this far stay open.

“We don't want to penalize the businesses who made the investment and now are having a hard time making payroll,” she said.

A task force reviewed applications, evaluated them by using the rubric, and then scored them.

In a final step, recommendations were made to a three-person committee made up of Melot, a county appointee and a city appointee.

Melot said the situation could be reviewed in 90 days to assess if another grant cycle is needed or desired.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.