Viasat Business Internet started the Ready. Set. Grow. small business grant program in response to the challenging times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Through the program, five small businesses each received a $5,000 grant, and five others each received a $1,000 grant. Recipients were selected based on their responses to a short series of essay questions.
We’re happy to feature these businesses that stood out in their applications, each one a testament to the fortitude and determination of small businesses and organizations all across America.
For the 12 employees at Manchester Inc., every day includes challenges — and also satisfaction.
The Indiana-based company provides millwright services – the behind-the-scenes but vital profession of repairing, constructing and installing industrial equipment.
Those projects often call for replacing outdated equipment with new, more efficient tools. Those are among the most rewarding jobs, according to owner Cindy Hall.
“We go into factories and mills where people have done things the same way for year after year, and hate change,” Hall said. “To then see them so happy with the change, when they see how much easier it makes their lives by reducing the physical effort they have to put into them – that’s really amazing.”
The need for millwrights crosses all industries. Manchester’s employees live in or near the small town of North Manchester, Indiana and travel throughout the country to work where their services are required – farms, foundries, recycling centers, sawmills, feed and grain operations, fertilizer and ethanol plants and stone quarries, among others.
Between the specialized nature of their work and the company’s small size, the employees are close.
A family business
Hall’s brother started the business in 1991. Hall’s husband also works for Manchester.
“We operate this as a family and everyone we have hired is more like family,” Hall said. “Everyone knows exactly what’s going on with every project, every job. We know each other’s birthdays and kids.
“Not a lot of people have the skills to do this work, so I try to get kids fresh out of high school that have an interest in welding. I’ve got two 18-year-olds working here now. We’re trying to raise them up in the business, give them the love for it and learn it from the ground up. I call them both ‘son.’”
In addition to their employees, another vital factor in the company’s business success is online connectivity.
“Our entire business runs on internet,” Hall said. “We do all of our invoicing, bidding, communications, finding quotes, on the internet. We just cannot function without it.”
In their area of rural Indiana, Hall said cellphones don’t work, making landlines and the internet the only reliable means of communication. Hall, who joined the business in 2014, switched the business to Viasat Business Internet almost immediately. The company’s previous provider was expensive, the service slow and inconsistent, and data was limited.
“Viasat has been amazing for us, absolutely amazing,” Hall said. “It has been a remarkable upgrade for Manchester Inc.”
But neither their hard-working employees nor their internet service could mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. The jobs require workers to be in other companies’ facilities, and like businesses around the world,
Manchester’s work ground to a halt.
“We had no income coming in for the busines or the employees,” Hall said. “I made the move before the government did to go ahead and pay my employees for 20 hours a week out of the company funds so they could feed their families.”
Hall kept doing so until the company applied for and received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program.
While they are now back in business, Manchester continues to deal with the effects of the coronavirus.
“A lot of our projects were capital projects that have been dropped,” Hall said. “We had a $6.4 million project – the largest one we’d ever taken – and now it’s gone.”
So Hall was elated to recently learn that Manchester Inc. was awarded a $5,000 grant as part of Viasat’s Ready. Set. Grow. program.
Hall said she screamed alone in her office when she read the notification.
“I am so grateful,” she said. “You have no idea.”
The grant funds will help offset operational costs and credit card bills that were required to help pay the company’s employees when they were unable to work. A portion of them will also go to help a member of the Manchester work family who sustained a life-changing injury in 2019.
Giving back to an employee, she said, is also a way to share a bit of their good fortune.
“God has blessed us beyond belief,” she said. “This will be a fantastic gift for him.”