For retail bakery owner Jodi Burns, the federal Paycheck Protection Program offers both a blessing and a curse. Burns is among the fortunate ones to be approved by PPP and is deciding on how best to proceed. Her fledgling company, Blazing Fresh Donuts in Guilford, Connecticut, is a small bakery with eight employees that is preparing to celebrate one year in business in June. Her bakery received approval for PPP funds of “under” $50,000.
"Here’s the problem. I am so grateful, but right now if I used the PPP funds, I would pay my staff to not work,” said Burns by phone on May 5. Rent is now her biggest expense, and by the time the 8-week clock rolls around Burns predicts she’d have to lay off most of her staff. For the “loan” to be fully forgiven, she must have eight people on her bakery’s payroll on June 30, assuming funds were received on April 30.
"Everyone is trying to operate at a shockingly fast pace,” Burns said. “There are unintended consequences because it’s never been done this quickly. When you move this quickly, mistakes happen.”
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, small business PPP funds are provided in the form of loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
Burns is not a typical bakery owner; she opened Blazing Fresh Donuts in June 2019 after more than 20 years working on Wall Street. A company buyout presented her with a unique opportunity to try something different. She chose donuts.
“I have an insatiable sweet tooth, and I wanted to introduce an amazing flavor experience to the Connecticut shoreline,” she said, recalling her inspiration after visiting a donut shop during a 2018 family vacation in Delaware. “I thought, ‘If I live in a donut eating community, maybe I will introduce them to an alternative to Dunkin’ Donuts.’”
Blazing Fresh Donuts emerged a steady and instant hit. Soon after opening, business took off during the busy summer. People clamored for their made-to-order vanilla cake donuts offered in such tantalizing flavors as blueberry cobbler and strawberry shortcake. Soon, the bakery was buzzing over 70 hours a week, including 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekend.
Fast forward a year, and everything came crashing down like a giant thud due to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why Burns is so worried for her employees because “it’s going to be a long time before we are open over 70 hours a week, like we used to be.”
Currently, the bakery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. exclusively on weekends. She hopes to add outside dining (her bakery already has tables and a permit) when that phase starts in her community on May 20.
“For some of our employees, partial hours are worse than no hours at all,” she said. “I will not be in a position to offer them the hours they need. As the restrictions lift, we will expand our hours on weekends and then hopefully open on Friday with limited hours.”
For now, Burns will wait and hope for better days. “It is unfortunate that we didn’t have our chance to experience the joy of our business growing leaps and bounds,” she said. “Summer is such a huge season for us because the population here doubles. If I had a magic wand, I wish it could have happened earlier when winter sales were already down. If my summer sales are what they are currently, I will worry about the viability of my business.”