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New program aims to help Brooklyn small businesses left out of PPP

As small businesses try to stay afloat, federal loan program falters
Posted at 4:11 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 18:57:44-04

BROOKLYN — Much needed help is on the way for a Brooklyn small businesses, and it's coming from the borough itself.

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, was set up by the federal government to rescue small businesses after the nationwide shutdown. But many business owners have had difficulty in getting funds, or if they obtain funds, in navigating all the rules associated with the program.

So Brooklyn has created a loan program to help some of its 60,000 businesses in the borough.

It’s appropriately called the “Bring Back Brooklyn Fund.”

PIX11 spoke with one small business owner, Miriam Milord of BCakeNY.

It’s a custom cake shop proving anything can “be cake,” giving rise to its name.

It has been a staple in Prospect Park for 11 years. In that time, the shop and it’s unique and delectable array of cakes, cookies and cupcakes, has grown by word of mouth and social media.

“This business, what I really love about it is that we make people happy,” said Milord. “People come with really creative ideas, like their pets, their cars. We can really do anything, so that’s our slogan: BCake.”

BCakeNY specializes in large sculpture-like cakes for parties of 75 or more, the very size gatherings that went on pause when the state did.

“With a pandemic we definitely had to pivot the entire concept," she said.

Pivot they did. Although Milord initially panicked, she and her team then began developing a new concept, helping people celebrate at home.

“We changed the sizing of the cakes, we just did one this weekend that had just two people — the bride and the groom — and they had 50 people on Zoom. We made a tiny little wedding cake for them.”

Although Milord has kept the business going with items like tiny wedding cakes for two, she has had struggles like other small business owners. She’s had to cut her staff by more than half.

“Our experience with PPP at first was very difficult. We needed a lot of help even just filling out the application,” said Milord.

She was ultimately approved. However, business owners have faced confusion over how to, or even if, they can use the funds, given the myriad of rules over PPP.

The difficulties in PPP is the primary reason the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce stepped in with its own loan program.

Samara Karasyk is chief policy officer and executive vice president of the chamber.

“We all want to see our borough continue to be the amazing place that it is, and it’s our small businesses that make it that way,” said Karasyk. “We all need to work together to save our businesses and to bring back Brooklyn.”

The Bring Back Brooklyn Fund is a fundraising program to facilitate donations large and small.

“Your money will go a long way in helping them during recovery, to sanitize their location, put up plexiglass screens, make sure they have ample PPE and whatever else they need to do to accommodate the new business world,” said Karasyk.

There are 63,000 businesses in Brooklyn; the majority of them are considered small businesses. Many are owned by minorities or women.

The fund has raised $200,000, but it’s goal is upwards of half a million.

“We know of course that a lot of people are facing their own financial circumstances right now. It’s a crisis for so many people,” said Karasyk. “But if one quarter of BrooklynItes gave us $25 towards this fund, we would raise $16 million.”

The zero interest loans are available to even those who may not have good credit or are under-banked. It’s designed to be a more streamlined process than the federal programs.

“We live in Brooklyn, because we love our neighborhood, we love our local shops, and unfortunately, far too many of them have already closed. We think a third of them may never reopen,” adds Karasyk.

BCakeNY continues to adapt with takeout and deliveries, and plexiglass in the shop limits exposure with customers.

The Bring Back Brooklyn Fund will go a long way in helping Milord’s fellow small businesses owners. At the heart of it, it’s a fund made by Brooklynites for Brooklynites.

“It’s that Brooklyn spirit that makes everyone come together,” said Milord optimistically.

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is waiting for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to give the greenlight for these business to officially reopen. Once that happens, they will open up the loan application process.

For more information, visit the program's fundraising site, or the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce's site.