Ryan Dietiker, owner of Forefathers Grooming, is relying on his community to get his small business through COVID-19 closures. Joe Powers Insitu Photography
In its third year of business, Forefathers Grooming was just really settling into Sterling Heights. Now, with its doors closed due to COVID-19 concerns, owner Ryan Dietiker is missing in-person engagement with his community. Here, he shares the challenges small businesses now face, and what could help.
This isn’t the first challenge you’ve had to overcome as a young business, but how does it compare to others?
This closure is profound, and I never thought as a new business owner, that I would experience this type of event causing my doors to close. During our first year, we suffered the unfortunate timing of major construction on the Van Dyke corridor with multiple closures over the course of eight months. This was directly in front of the business and made access for our clients difficult during that time. We were scathed, but continued to grow and focus heavily on customer service and building long lasting relationships, which is what we do best.
What challenges are you facing?
It was mandated that our industry close for just a few weeks, but that has now turned into indefinitely. While this time is extended, it has impacted us heavily and we still have obligations financially to uphold. As a new, small business, our financial reserves are minimal. Statistically, most small companies keep one month or less as reserve for incidentals, as they are still reinvesting their capital back into the business for growth as we have. This temporary closing of nonessential businesses has caused us to deplete our reserves.
What has this meant for the business going forward?
I have been able to lay our staff off luckily. I say luckily, because Forefathers Grooming is one of the few businesses in the salon industry to offer W-2 employment. I have kept a close watch on support from the local, state, and federal governments during this time to find relief where we can for our staff. The business will survive by taking advantage of the loans and grants provided by our government along with some personal savings. I am sorry to see that many small businesses will struggle through these times and possibly not recover from this unfortunate event.
What could help small businesses?
I believe education is very important regarding what is offered to us. We need more resources about what’s best for us during this time. It was very difficult to navigate not necessarily what support was offered, but how to interpret what support was a good fit for us as a business. Loans or grants? Which one would be more beneficial for our specific needs. What specifically will keep us afloat? Do I have enough money to sustain us for a long period if I secure a grant?
Do you plan on applying for Macomb's small business grant?
I have applied online with Macomb County for a grant in addition to the state of Michigan for loans. It is an amazing opportunity to help us pay bills that are piling up without having income rolling in. We are hopeful to obtain this funding from the state as it is essential to our survival. More than anything, this experience is a testimony to the connection we have to our surroundings. I hope we can come out of this closer and more connected to each other than ever.
What would you like people to know about small businesses in Sterling Heights at this time?
Small businesses like ours are essential to the sense of community we feel with each other. Most small businesses are filled with you and I, we can look around and see our neighbor within ourselves. It is in our nature to help one another and, in my belief, we all want to see each other succeed.