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 featured our $5,000 grant winners in previous blog stories. Today, we highlight the five additional organizations who each received $1,000. Each is a testament to the fortitude and determination of small businesses and organizations across America.
All About Grooming
All About Grooming is a small, family-owned business, and that’s what people love about it. Clients who bring their pets to the Sanger, TX facility for grooming and boarding know their animals are in the caring hands of people they know.
But all those services were put on hold last spring when the coronavirus crisis struck.
Thankfully, when the doors re-opened, business boomed.
“We had a drastic rush of appointment requests, as many of our furry friends were way overdue,” general manager Mandy Forman said.
The return of their loyal customers showed the business owners not only how needed their services are, but that they could support further investment in the business.
With the $1,000 grant from Viasat, All About Grooming purchased a new Prima bathing system and an additional webcam for the pet hotel. The Prima system lets them give pets “a professional grade clean via a DIY method and price.” And the added webcam helps staff visually check-in on guests between routine housekeeping and playtime visits.
The webcam – and many other aspects of the business – rely on the company’s Viasat Business Internet service. That includes business software that sends reminder emails and texts to clients and a VoIP phone line on which the business receives all its calls.
“Our internet connection is of the utmost importance to the well-being of our family business,” Forman said.
For young people who’ve runaway or are homeless, Youth Futures provides respite and support.
The emergency overnight shelter and temporary residential center in Ogden, Utah offers lodging, case management, drop-in daytime services and ongoing supportive services for approximately 350 runaway and homeless youth.
“I think few teens grow up without some kind of struggle – to find themselves, to understand life and to create a path for themselves,” co-founder Kristen Mitchell said. “My hope was to create a safe space where youth could come both for shelter and peace.”
The center’s free programs connect young people not only with food, housing and resources but loving and supportive guidance designed to either reunite youth with families or build skills for a successful transition into adulthood.
When the COVID-19 closures began, Youth Futures leaders kept the shelter open and stopped the drop-in and street outreach programs. In April, they re-opened those programs, and are today serving more individuals than ever before.
Youth Futures will use its $1,000 Viasat grant on its day-to-day operational costs, to purchase supplies to meet CDC safety directives and stock necessities for street outreach, as well as keeping its technology operational.
The latter is critical.
“Our therapists have begun telehealth services and our management and case management meetings have all gone virtual,” Mitchell said. “It is essential to our business to remain connected and serving youth.”
Locals in Luther, a small Oklahoma town of just over 1,000 people, are grateful to have their own coffee shop – the only one in town – and Brew 66 returns the love by giving back to its community. The coffee and breakfast shop located on historic Route 66 features a drive-through and small dine-in area. Residents rave about its variety of coffee, mini doughnuts, breakfast fare and friendly staff.
Throughout the pandemic and despite a downturn in business, owner Rachael Payne kept all her employees working at full pay at her own expense.
“Business has definitely been affected but we are trying our hardest to stay afloat,” she said.
Yet Payne hasn’t forgotten that many in the community also are struggling. She set up a “blessings pantry” – a set of shelves and water-tight tub – in which people can leave and take canned goods and other supplies. A neatly typed message taped to the shelves tells donors and recipients alike all they need to know: “Take what you need. Leave what you can. Spread kindness.”
Brew 66’s Viasat Business Internet service is vital not just to the business but the community. Local students without home internet come by and tap into the shop’s internet to do homework.
“We have a big sign that says free Wi-Fi, and since we’re a small town it is heavily-relied on,” Payne said.
She is using the $1,000 Viasat grant to supplement payroll and operating costs.
Ray O’ Sunshine Food & Garden
Ray O’ Sunshine Food & Garden opened in June 2019, but it already fills a vital niche in rural South Carolina – providing fresh vegetables in an area without other options, and food to those in need. Closing during the pandemic was never under consideration; instead, employees focused on making the best of a challenging situation.
“We are vital to our community of Dorchester,” owner Rachel Dubois said. “COVID-19 was especially difficult for our elderly customers and those with underlying health conditions. We were able to set up curbside pickup right away for those afraid to go into the store.”
That emphasis on essential services meant few people were buying Ray O’ Sunshine’s plants and gift items, and that took a financial toll on the business.
But it’s also made Dubois determined to expand services to a community that clearly needs it. The town has no community center or public park, and she plans to use the Viasat grant to add cafe tables and a coffee station where people can socialize outside.
She’ll also build shelving to increase the number and variety of grocery products the store offers.
Local fans are sure to respond. They praise Ray O’ Sunshine for its friendly employees and welcoming atmosphere, which one woman described as “like you are walking into your grandmother’s house.”
Dubois credits her Viasat Business Internet for part of her success. She uses it to communicate with customers both through social media and email, operate her sales register and order products.
Lady Veterans Connect
For Lady Veterans Connect – the first large veterans’ facility in Kentucky and among the largest in the U.S. – the timing of the pandemic could scarcely have been worse. The building in Winchester, KY opened its doors in April, and is operating on a limited basis as the nationwide crisis continues.
Located in a former elementary school, the nonprofit has space for 32 women, but is serving only a fraction of that number now to comply with coronavirus social distancing requirements.
The programs it provides are designed to give homeless women – most of whom suffered post traumatic stress disorder – transitional housing and the skills they need to smoothly transition to a successful life.
The Winchester facility joins an existing Lady Veterans Connect in Lexington.
Internet is essential to the facility’s success, now and in the future, said founder Phyllis Abbott, who chose Viasat Business Internet to provide the service.
“The VA Hospital is allowing us to have virtual counseling room set up where the women veterans can do counseling,” she said. “Additionally, we have a classroom setup where the women veterans will be participating in training and programs to provide them with the opportunity to prepare them to heal and be productive women again.”
Abbott plans to use the $1,000 Viasat grant to help update some wiring in the old building, and purchase computers and other equipment for the classroom and counseling room.
Thanks to all of the small businesses and organizations that applied for a Viasat Ready. Set. Grow grant. There were so many applications worthy of help, it was difficult to pick only 10. If your business is looking for ideas on making it through the pandemic, we recommend StandForSmall.com.
Video: Meet some of the Ready. Set. Grow. grant recipients