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Girls in the Garage Receives BIG

November 20, 2020

HARRISBURG, Ill. (November 20, 2020) – When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve and 2020 began, Amy Schutt and her family, owners of Girls in the Garage in Carrier Mills, were not preparing for a pandemic. Like most small business owners, Amy was preparing for the year ahead - printing shirts and marketing materials.

She started the year by learning new techniques, offering new services, and preparing for the vast amount of parades, school pride shirts, festivals, events, and fundraisers. When March came in like a lion with a sweeping front of COVID-19 closures, production nearly stopped for her successful business and many others across our region, our state, and our nation.

Despite months of hardship and enduring the struggle, day in and out, there have been moments of promise and elation. Girls in the Garage very recently learned they are a recipient of the Business Interruption Grant.

The Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program is a $636 million program developed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly to provide economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. BIG leverages federal funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help offset COVID-19 related losses for Illinois small businesses.

BIG is the largest program of its kind in the nation – leveraging federal CARES Act funds to establish economic recovery programs: over $270 million for small businesses, and another $270 million exclusively for childcare providers, administered jointly by DCEO and IDHS.

Funding may be used to help businesses with working capital expenses, including payroll costs; rent; utilities; and other operational costs.

“We were just shocked,” said Schutt. “I mean really, we're little people at the corner of Nothing and Nowhere. Most people don't know we're here and just exactly what we do. We do a lot of contract printing for companies that don't offer screen printing, but provide other services. We've printed for the federal government and as far away as the military in Heidelberg, Germany. Every shirt a person wears comes from a shop like ours.”

Girls in the Garage has been in business since 2007 and started as the hobby of Amy and Tony Schutt’s daughter, Paige. Paige started the business with a small piece of equipment in their kitchen with her friends in high school. After a life changing event in Paige’s life, her family came together and slowly grew the business they have today. Along with their son, Kane, the Schutt family turned a hobby into a thriving business.

Their business includes several pieces of equipment that is operated and maintained by their family members and employees. They process artwork onto fabrics through screen printing, offer various marketing and promotional materials, and offer a variety of services.

“Many of these pieces of equipment that are sitting around me are purchased through lease.

Those leases have to be paid,” said Schutt. “People that work here have to eat and live like everyone else. It's not uncommon to have $600 in ink come in here on any given day. We believe that quality in creates quality out. I'm sure there are less expensive things we could purchase, but that is not the standard that we accept.  This business represents our family name, but more than anything, it represents our daughter. We have been gifted and blessed with a gift of the BIG grant, but we still live every day uncertain whether we will be able to survive.”

COVID-19 has impacted Schutt’s business fully, forcing them to shift their efforts at a moment’s notice. From shifting their sales from a storefront to a mobile tent, curbside pickup, and by drive up window – the Schutt family worked to find new, safer methods to do business.

“We were told by a friend in the medical community at the end of February to stop what we were doing and find every mask we could get our hands on, that in six months everyone would be wearing one,” said Schutt. “We found some young men in Urbana that had the equipment to make them. What started as a maybe we will-maybe we won't idea became what we pivoted to and saved us for a while. We still have masks for days, but foot traffic has been limited because of a risk of underlying illnesses.”

The Schutt family reached out to the Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southeastern Illinois College for assistance in the application of the BIG grant, but also for assistance in loan applications, marketing, and government contracting the last several years.

“The Small Business Development Center has been available to us in person, online, by text, by phone and probably by carrier pigeon if we had asked,” said Schutt. “There has been no time in this whole year that we were unable to reach Arla Murphy at once. Even when we thought that we were on our last day (and we might still be), she was always there to build us up and tell us that this would pass. There was always a kind and positive answer to anything that we encountered. I believe we'd all be in a puddle of tears had it not been for her and the Small Business Administration (SBA).”

Schutt encourages every business owner to take advantage of the programs available and if you need help, ask for it.

“The money is there. It may include some paperwork and patience, but it's there. If we could all just give a hand up to those around us, even as little as one time, imagine the change we could see before our eyes,” Schutt said. “Pride has to be set aside, sometimes. It's hard, but you have to believe that what you are doing will make a positive impact on someone else's life. We believe we can do just that.”

The Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center (WISBDC) is a part of the Illinois Small Business Development Center Network which serves as a dynamic, integrated, small business assistance delivery system. The Network's mission is to increase the competitiveness, profitability and growth of Illinois businesses in a global economy. The WISBDC has been developed through a partnership involving the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the college as a service to Illinois small businesses in Gallatin, Hardin, Pope, Saline and White counties and portions of Hamilton, Johnson and Williamson counties.

To become a client, set up an appointment, or to learn more about the Workforce and Illinois Small Business Development Center, email arla.murphy@sic.edu or call 618-252-5400 ext. 2312.

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