Helping Washington, D.C., small business owners make a way during the pandemic
Through its Open for Business Fund and participation in the Paycheck Protection Program, Wells Fargo is continuing to support small businesses in Washington, D.C., with the capital and resources they need to make a way to stay open, day after day.
The past 12 months have proven the resiliency and resolve of 30 million small businesses across the U.S. as they make a way to stay open day after day. Wells Fargo recognizes the importance of America’s small businesses — for local communities and the broader national economy — and the company continues to provide them with access to the capital and resources they need to weather the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company also created the Open for Business Fund in July 2020, a roughly $420 million recovery effort to help small businesses recover and rebuild. The Open for Business Fund supports community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, and other nonprofits that provide needed capital, technical support, and long-term resiliency programs for small businesses, including racially and ethnically diverse owners who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
In Washington, D.C., Wells Fargo has provided $95 million in Payment Protection Program, or PPP, loans to small businesses, representing almost 7,500 jobs. More than 85% of these loans nationally went to businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The company supported numerous other small businesses through its Open for Business Fund, which includes D.C.-based nonprofits and CDFIs. Here are just a few of the Washington, D.C.-based small businesses Wells Fargo has helped through these programs.
Continuing a family legacy with a tailor-made grant
“JC Lofton will be around for the next 100 years because we’re going to make sure we keep it going. We feel good about where we are right now, and we’re looking forward to bigger and better things.” — Eddie Lofton, owner of JC Lofton Tailors
As the owner of JC Lofton Tailors in Washington, D.C., Julius “Eddie” Lofton is continuing a family tradition that began in the late 1930s, when his late grandfather, Josephus C. Lofton, whom the shop is named for, opened Lofton Custom Tailoring and became the first African American to own a tailoring shop/tailoring school in the district.
“My grandfather was a pillar in the community,” Lofton said. “He always tried to help people and show people respect, and he taught me the same things.”
Like his grandfather, Lofton has served everyone from politicians to celebrities to nearby Howard University students, tailoring their professional attire and outfits for events such as weddings, New Year’s Eve parties, and presidential inaugurations. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began, resulting in many people working remotely and countless in-person events being canceled, there wasn’t much of a need for tailoring, Lofton said — and some people weren’t able to afford their tailored items. Yet Lofton still needed to pay his tailors and the rent and bills for his shop.
Fortunately, he applied for and received a $10,000 grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund through Local Initiatives Support Corporation, allowing him to catch up on some of his bills. The $10,000 grant has been a relief for Lofton and has allowed him to continue his grandfather’s legacy.
Lofton has four grown children and six grandchildren, some of whom have already expressed interest in running the business one day. Receiving help to get through these hard times will ensure that his grandfather’s legacy continues to live on.
“JC Lofton will be around for the next 100 years because we’re going to make sure we keep it going,” Lofton said. “We feel good about where we are right now, and we’re looking forward to bigger and better things.”
Breathing life into a floral shop
“The PPP loans breathed life into us. I’m thankful every day. I wake up and say, ‘Thank you Wells Fargo.’ Otherwise, a shop like this would’ve been closed a long time ago.” — Suha Kaidbey, owner of Le Printemps
Flowers are pieces of art for Suha Kaidbey, who always assures her customers that their orders will be spectacular. For the 37 years the floral shop, Le Printemps, has been open, business was good. Kaidbey’s luxury line started working with hotels, politicians, and celebrities over the years. “I look at this business as a boutique,” she said. “I give each client attention and the best I can do for them.”
But because a lot of her business comes from hotels, weddings, and other events, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the florist. Over the course of about a week in March 2020, multiple hotel managers called to cancel their orders. Business dropped about 50%.
“It was 100% traumatic,” Kaidbey said.
That same week, her daughter moved to Washington, D.C., and soon began helping with the business and looking for financial resources. They applied for and received both rounds of PPP loans from Wells Fargo, along with support from Casey Morris, their business development officer.
“Casey was super helpful,” Kaidbey said. “If I had a question, he answered it. He was there all the time for me.”
Le Printemps used the loans for payroll and to pay bills. They also took time during the pandemic to make the shop’s website more of a focus to reach more individuals. Today, most of the orders are made through the phone or website. And even though Kaidbey still isn’t sure how the future looks for her business, she is grateful.
“The PPP loans breathed life into us,” Kaidbey said. “I’m thankful every day. I wake up and say, ‘Thank you Wells Fargo.’ I just hope things get better, and we are around for another 37 years.”
Keeping the family business together
“Once I paid the rent, I knew that help was coming and that I could keep my business. This is something I am very thankful for, and I feel very lucky.” — Sandra Foote, owner of Flip-It LJ Diner
Opening up a small breakfast-focused diner was not easy for Sandra Foote and her husband nine years ago. After emigrating from Bolivia, Foote met her husband in the U.S. They had their first child, a son, and decided to open a business together. But not long after the restaurant lease was signed, Foote’s husband died, and she had to figure out how to run the business on her own.
“It was very difficult for me. My husband knew everything, and I didn’t know anything about opening a restaurant,” Foote said. “It took me about six months to figure it out, but I realized I had to. For our family, for our kid.”
Flip-It LJ Diner, named with the first initials of her late husband and her son, serves mainly South American influenced organic and farm-fresh food. With the help of her employees who were like an extended family for her and her son, the diner has had steady business and rave reviews.
When the pandemic hit, Foote’s restaurant was among the many that saw business slow down dramatically.
“The customers just disappeared. And it was very difficult” Foote said. “My main focus was on my employees, and making sure that they would at least have some money to buy groceries, for their kids. I felt so devastated, thinking I would have to close this business that took so much work to open. I didn’t want to give up.”
During this tough time, a representative from the D.C.-based nonprofit, District Bridges, came to the diner and told Foote about grants available for small businesses. District Bridges referred Foote to LISC, a community development financial institution that is part of Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund.
Foote, who has often looked to her faith and prayer when she needed hope, said it was like being visited by an angel. It seeded the hope that her business would make it through. She was able to secure a CDFI grant that helped her pay her rent, and has since applied for and received other helpful funding.
“Once I paid the rent, I knew that help was coming and that I could keep my business,” Foote said. “This is something I am very thankful for, and I feel very lucky.”
With business now returning to somewhat normal levels, and the economy seeming to recover, Foote and her employees remain hopeful.
“This has been very emotional for all of us,” she said.