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Small Business Resources

With the coronavirus here to stay, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a communication toolkit that could be a big help in the messaging your business puts out. Check out everything they have to offer in the information below.

Digital Toolkit

The communication toolkit not only includes sample copy for online posts, such as: “Here’s what you can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at home, work, or school,” but graphics as well.

For your employees, they have a standard employee screening questionnaire, to stay on top of preventing the spread.

Communication toolkit

And for your customers, they have a customizable flier (that even allows you to insert your company logo) so you can inform your patrons the steps you’ve taken to ensure they can shop at ease. In addition to posting updates online, be sure to use the hashtags #COVID_19 and #COVID19 to keep your posts organized.

Policy Tracker

MultiState, a company referenced by the Chamber of Commerce, created a dashboard of state and local coronavirus activity. The dashboard, set up in Excel spreadsheet form, is updated daily and provides information in easy-to-consume form.

Similarly, the site also includes data graphics on a variety of topics, including: how open each state is for business,

what each state considers essential business,

and travel restrictions by state.

Toolkit

For more information, including state legislative sessions, check out their website.

Other Resources

Let us know what resources you’ve been using to stay up to date. As we have discovered, coronavirus information changes daily. Staying on top of these updates, therefore, are essential for preparing our businesses for the next wave.


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COVID-19 Small Business Tax Changes

COVID-19 Tax Changes

Every business owner know the CARES Act provides financial relief for small business. Less talked about however, are the tax credits available for this upcoming tax season. Check out the nine tax changes below so you can start your record keeping today.

Employee Retention Tax Credit

Businesses are eligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit if operations were fully or partially suspended due to COVID-19, or if gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter last year.

Eligible business can get a 50% tax credit on wages up to $10,000 per employee for wages paid from March 13, 2020 to December 31, 2020. To claim the credit, employers should report wages and health insurance costs on their quarterly tax returns starting the second quarter of 2020.

For more information, visit here.

Sick and Family Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) made big changes to the family leave policy for businesses with less than 500 employees. To reimburse employers for expenses incurred while providing paid sick leave, the CARES Act provides a refundable tax credit of up to 100% of the amount paid, paid quarterly.

Check out this article from the Small Business Administration for more information. This article includes information from the Treasury on how they can help with cash flow.

Delayed Payroll Tax Payments

Any business that didn’t participate in the Payment Protection Program can delay payroll tax credits owed for 2020 over the next two years. You must pay half by the end of 2021, and the other half by the end of 2022.

Charitable Gift Deduction Expansion

Before the CARES Act, corporate charitable contributions could not exceed 10%. This has been expanded to 25%. Note the change is not automatic and must be elected.

Net Operating Loss Changes

Any business that had a net operating loss (NOL) for the years 2018-2020 can carry those for up to five years. You can also carry these NOLs for up to 20 years, but they will be subject to the 80% limitation. This is in hopes to improve cash flow and liquidity.

Business Loss Deduction Changes

The CARES Act halted the cap on deductions for business losses on individual returns for the years 2018-2020. Business owners who had losses during 2018 and 2019 can file amended returns to receive refunds.

Corporate AMT Credits

To improve cash flow, businesses supposed to receive an AMT tax credit at the end of 2021 can claim their refund now.

Changes in Interest Deductibles

The CARES Act allows businesses to increase their business interest expense deductions for 2019 and 2020. The increase went from up to 30% to up to 50% of adjustable taxable income.

Facility Improvement Write-Off

Thanks to a provision in the CARES Act, businesses who made improvements to a facility can immediately write off costs associated with improving the interior of a non-resident building. This basically expands the tax deduction for up to 100% of improvement costs, and the deductions can be made immediately.

To read more about this tax change, check out this article.

Information for this post came from the Small Business Administration.


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Small Business Financial Relief

Small Business Relief

If you’re like us, it feels great to be back to work. But even as more money begins flowing in, know financial options are available if your budget still feels tight.

Paycheck Protection Program

The most widely known option available, the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to keep workers on payroll. If employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks, SBA will forgive loans when the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. Consult with your lender if they are participants of this program. Note, the PPP is tax exempt.

For more information, visit here.

EIDL Loan Advance

This loan advance provides up to $10,000 to small businesses in need of temporary relief, and is the newest form of economic relief passed by Congress. Enacted on June 15, note the loan does not have to be repaid. Businesses who have already received money from the PPP are eligible.

For more information, visit here.

SBA Express Bridge Loans

Small businesses are eligible for SBA Express Bridge Loans if they already have a relationship with an SBA Express Lender. This loan is good for up to $25,000 and can be accessed quickly. Use this loan to bridge the gap while waiting for funds from the EIDL loan.

For more information, visit here.

SBA Debt Relief

For businesses who didn’t received funding from the above options, the SBA will automatically provide SBA Debt Relief. This includes six months of paying the principal, interest, and fees for current and new borrowers (through September 27, 2020). For more information, visit here.

Also note, the CARES Act includes funding for the SBA to forgive six months of payments for current and new loans provided through the SBA. For more information, visit here.

Other options

There is a long list of corporations also looking to support small businesses. Start with Forbes for a more organized version, then check out the University of Chicago for a more inclusive list. 

Information for this blog came from the Small Business Administration. Local relief may be available; we suggest beginning your research with a Google search. 


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Virtual Blue Bag Finale

Virtual

This week we’re closing our Virtual Blue Bag series… for the time being. The event will be back in July! For a full list of products, head to our website.

Collections

Videos

Other

  • Perkins Dry Goods Pattern: This pattern is just one of the many offered in the Virtual Blue Bag. Plus, Perkins Dry Goods has 15% off orders; check out their website to cash in on this deal.
  • Q’nique 21 Pro Sewing Machine: Head over to The Grace Company to get an overview of this product (and their sweet sale).
  • Quilter Select Products: Including the popular Select Quilting Rulers designed by Alex Anderson and RNK Distributing, check out their new sizes.

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Virtual Blue Bag Continued!

Virtual Blue Bag

No need to miss Spring Quilt Market when we’ve made Virtual Blue Bags. Check out the continued list of products from last week below, or check out a full list at our website.

In addition to Virtual Blue Bags, we have a special offer for subscriptions going right now. Plus you can receive a free digital copy of the April 2020 issue by using code April2020 at checkout.

Now, check out what’s new this season.

Collections

P&B Textiles has released 13 Collections this Spring. For bright colors and designs, check out Butterfly Dreams by Robin Mead. For the cutest collection—perfect for baby quilts and clothes—(expected to release this Fall) check out Little Creatures by Robin Roderick.

Windham Fabrics has the perfect collection for any spring-themed project you may working on with the Posy line by Annabel Wrigley. Also Spring-related is the Jane Austin at Home line by Riley Blake Designs.

Videos

C&T Publishing has an entire page dedicated to Quilt Market. Check out their Trunk show, Schoolhouse videos, and more content from your favorite authors. JoAnn Hoffman Designs also released a video of their 2020 designs.

Products

Stay tuned—the next Virtual Blue Bag event will be held in July.


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Re-Opening: What have we learned?

Appreciation

To wrap up our re-opening series, we thought we’d conclude with some reflection. And upon reflecting, we kept coming back to one word: appreciation.

The impact of COVID-19 is far from over, and as we re-integrate back into society we will be learning a new normal. We appreciate the lives we had. We appreciate and understand community in a new light. And, we have a new appreciation for our work.

How community has changed

Community has taken on a new meaning. During this time, community means staying away. Community means learning new technology to stay in touch with those you loved.

One thing we’ve noticed through staying in touch digitally are the new routines. At the end of virtual classes or quilt-alongs, do you leave time for sharing? Time for friendly faces to take the screen wearing their familiar smiles? That sort of community seems to make things feel normal again.

A new appreciation for work

All of us have had the confirmation during this pandemic of what we already knew; quilters are essential workers. How many masks have you made? What (or who) are you thinking of while you’re making those masks? How many frontline workers are made safer because of the skills you have and the effort you put in?

As you think about those “when this is all over I’m going to…” ideas, also try to think about what sort of lessons you’re going to take with you. There’s no feeling quite like lending a hand during a time of need.

American Quilt Retailer sees the work that you’ve done and feels the stress of what you’re going through. We will continue to be as much of a resource to you every step of the way.


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Re-Opening Your Business

Open

Each state is responding to the coronavirus differently, and that includes when businesses are allowed to re-open.

Within the next week, 20 states are loosening restrictions—with most attention going to Georgia—as they have had the most aggressive re-opening response. Cities and counties within these states can differ on their re-opening to, so pay attention to your local news to get the most accurate information on when restrictions will be lifted in your area.

Deciding whether or not to reopen your business ultimately comes down to you and your employees. Safety should remain the highest priority, and maintaining a feeling of safety for your employees is also critical.

If you do decide to reopen, here are some things to know.

Reopening requirements

Each state is going to be different, and some states have specific requirements. As a rule of thumb, make sure your employees wear masks at all times, and make masks to provide to your customers to wear while shopping too. Cloth masks should be hand washed after each use, and don’t let your store get so full your customers can’t adhere to the 6-foot social distancing rule.

Store cleaning should be increased too. Consider adding wipes, towels, or cleaner by the door so patrons don’t have to touch the surface. Find ways to sanitize your payment options; wipe the pin pad after a card transaction or provide a stylus to be cleaned after each use. Other surfaces and countertops should be frequently cleaned throughout the day as well.

If someone coughs or sneezes on a surface, clean it promptly. According to the CDC, you should wipe the surface first with soap and water, then clean the surface again with a disinfectant. Soft surfaces, such as fabric, will need to be washed. Don’t shake out contaminated soft surfaces, as that can spread the virus as well. Gloves should be worn while cleaning these surfaces, and you should wash your hands after removing your gloves. Lastly, if you allow patrons to use your restroom, clean the room after each use.

These steps will help prepare your location to re-open. Next week we’ll cover how to keep your employees protected, and what policies to change to provide them peace of mind.


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Stitchin’ Heaven Owners Named Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Person of the Year

Stitchin' Heaven

Owners of Stitchin’ Heaven, Deb and her son Clay Luttrell, have been named the District 2020 Small Business Person of the Year by the Dallas-Fort Worth Small Business Administration.

Deb founded Stitchin’ Heaven—the largest quilt store in Texas—in 1996 and has since grown the quilt shop into a multimillion-dollar business. They’ve expanded their offerings to include online sales, projects, education, and group travel. Clay officially joined the Stitchin’ Heaven team in 2017 and facilitated the opening of a new location. The 17,500 square-foot store opened October 2019 in Quitman, TX (population 1,800).

Like many quilt retailers across the country, the pandemic has forced Stitchin’ Heaven to close its retail doors. Many factors went into the decision to close up shop before the state-mandated order. The safety of employees and customers as well as the fact that Stitchin’ Heaven is a destination attraction were among these reasons.

Stitchin’ Heaven is known for remaining relevant during ever-changing times. They’ve started hosting weekly quarantine quilt alongs on Facebook live and maintained their Block of the Month program.

What Stitchin’ Heaven is doing to help

Sewers across this nation are proving to be essential workers by providing essential supplies, like face masks. This rings true with Stitchin’ Heaven when they sent a customer going through a tough time supplies to make masks. This customers sent some of these supplies to her sister, who made 25 masks for her local health care facility. Now, her entire extended family are making masks that go as far as Arkansas and Tennessee.

“It starts as a little flicker,” Deb said. “And now we’re at bonfire level. If you have an idea, act on it, don’t wait. You never know when you act what other things will happen.”

Deb’s piece of advice during these difficult times is to remember that everything your business does should be done with the customer in mind.

And of course, Deb is grateful for everyone who helped along the way.

“Clay and I would like to thank all of our loyal customers who have been faithful to the business, our dedicated employees who work hard every day to provide exceptional service, our family who have played such a key role in the success of Stitchin’ Heaven, and the City of Quitman for their continued support. We have big plans for 2020 and beyond and can’t wait to continue growing as a household name for quilters around the country.”


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COVID-19 Check-In

COVID-19

Much of the nation has been quarantining for a month now, and the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation we (and the world) are in is fully realized.

The uncomfortable part of quarantining is likely over. We’ve become used to leaving the home for only the essentials, we’ve fallen into a new schedule. But this doesn’t mean that the way we feel during this crisis is any different.

Things have been hard, and nobody is enjoying themselves. A survey on a friend’s Instagram story proved this to be true with 80 percent of respondees saying they are not enjoying this strange time.

Sitting and thinking about friends in nursing homes, essential workers, people who have lost their jobs, and vulnerable family members is enough for the spiral of anxiety to begin again. We are being confronted with a sense of powerlessness every day, and with every new piece of information.

What can I do?

And yet it’s thinking of these people that make me realize how good I have it. It inspires me to turn the feeling of powerlessness into action. Send a card (or two), continue sewing face masks, donate to local charities and businesses, reach out to loved ones to see how you can help.

What if it’s not safe for you to leave your home? Bake cookies, write a letter, put a sign of encouragement in your window, or call a friend instead. Because at the end of the day, all we have is each other and a new day will come soon.

What has helped you the most during the COVID-19 quarantine? Leave comments below with what you’ve been watching, listening to, or doing.


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Staying in business through the pandemic

Pandemic

Times may be strange as the world faces a pandemic for the first time in over 100 years, but many people are going to pick up new hobbies with all of this extra time. Quilt retailers across the nation can fill the creative void by providing craft tools in new ways.

Changes to make during a pandemic

Sales don’t have to decrease; you just may have to evaluate how you’re going to get your product to your customer. This may mean making an online store for the first time ever, or offering door-to-door delivery. Consider offering lessons through video conference calls, or create a virtual class through Facebook.

Be sure to let your customers know of your new services through increased marketing. Go live on social media, increase the frequency of your email blasts, and have employees reach out to loyal patrons through phone calls during the downtime in their work day.

And speaking of reaching out, remember the quilt community is the only community some of our customers have. Look into offering classes in public areas (while following social distancing guidelines), or a virtual quilt show.

Evaluate ways to save

Many of you have already had to make tough decisions; like which employees should you keep working and which will you have to layoff (even if it is just temporary).

If you don’t already, now is a great time to look at budgeting apps for your business’s finances. These apps will list what reoccurring payments your business is currently making that you can do without during the pandemic.

Another way to save money is to talk to your credit card holder or mortgage lender to see if your payments can be adjusted. We often view these expenses as fixed, but as the world isn’t operating normally right now, exceptions can likely be made.

Hang in there American Quilt Retailer community. By working together and sharing ideas, we can keep each other afloat.

Inspiration for this post comes from this article written by Gwen Bortner.


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