BY KARA SHOEMAKER
Keeping a business open during a pandemic is no easy feat. COVID-19 has severely impacted Santa Barbara County’s small business community. While the CARES Act provided some emergency relief resources, after seven months of changing regulations and safety measures, implementing social distancing protocols, and a drop in customers, many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat financially.
“Basically we lost 70 percent of our business due to the lockdown because our primary sales channels are office campuses like Google, Salesforce, and Facebook, where they set up coffee bars for their employees,” said John Goerke, Founder and CEO of Bona Fide Nitro Coffee & Tea Company in Goleta. “Those are really good customers for us and then overnight they stopped. The other piece is restaurants, hotels and coffee houses, and same thing happened – they shut down, sent employees home. The challenge I saw is that we have all of our eggs in one basket.”
Goerke and Bona Fide Sales Director Spencer Weiner immediately got to work brainstorming ways to diversify their sales channels. How could they get their premium nitro coffee in the refrigerators of people working from home but also avoid wasteful single-serve beverage containers? Their solution: a consumer-sized nitro keg. Of course, designing and producing a prototype is not a cheap endeavor, even when business is profitable.
“We didn’t have the budget for that kind of innovation, so I needed some money. And then ‘Wow’ this Santa Barbara Better Together grant came through!” said Goerke. “It’s giving us an avenue to squeeze into a new sales channel with our same core product, which is nitro coffee.”
Although best known for providing grant money that supports nonprofit organizations, the Santa Barbara Foundation is partnering with Deckers Brands and cities across the county to provide much-needed financial support to our small business community.
The Santa Barbara Better Together Fund (SBBT) was set up as a Committee-Advised Fund at the Santa Barbara Foundation in March of 2020, with an initial $500,000 donation from Deckers. The fund was designed to help local businesses survive these uncertain times, which will help sustain our community. Grant award decisions are made by the SBBT advisory committee, comprised of representatives from Deckers, Santa Barbara Foundation, and local experts. As of October 2020, the SBBT has awarded $327,500 to 49 businesses in Goleta, unincorporated Santa Barbara County areas, and Santa Maria.
“Early on we saw clearly small businesses were going to need help to weather this crisis. We, at Deckers, felt a responsibility to jump in and help as best we could. This small and tight community has a strong web of support yet we knew we could impact further by stepping up and creating the fund. We are pleased to have been able to partner with the Santa Barbara Foundation and the cities to grant help to small businesses,” said Dave Powers, President & CEO, Deckers Brands and Chairman of the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund. “We’re in this for the long haul and are committed to seeing our community thrive on the other side of this crisis.”
“With so many local small businesses struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19, we knew that we needed to do something to help,” said Jackie Carrera, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We are proud to support our business community through this collaboration with SBBT and cities throughout the county.”
Through innovative partnerships like Santa Barbara Better Together and the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort for Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Foundation is continuing to provide impactful support for our communities during the pandemic and beyond.
“I just have this sense that everything is going to work out,” said Goerke. “It’s exciting and fun, and I really appreciate the Foundation and the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund for helping us out.”
Learn more about the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund and upcoming small business grant opportunities by visiting: www.sbfoundation.org/covid-19-business-community-resources/