This morning, we were AMAZED AND DELIGHTED to find that The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) loan we had applied for, and were granted, was deposited in our account.
As you know, it's not an easy time for a lot of people. Small businesses like Outlaw don't generally have the kind of cash cushion necessary to survive a huge economic downturn, and when Amazon stopped shipping anything but essentials, and many retail businesses closed, two of our sales channels dried up overnight.
I've been working on every loan application I could get my hands on -- everything from traditional bank loans to the Paycheck Protection Program (the PPP, as it's called). We did have a little in the bank, but not enough to go for an indefinite period of time.
My idea of literal Hell is filling out government paperwork having it sent back with minor changes, the forms changing slightly, and resubmitting, getting it punted back for corrections, and then the form changing again... forever and ever. I've never been afraid of death, but I'm afraid of this level of government paperwork.
Let's just say March 2020 wasn't my favorite month.
I'm sharing this with you because many of you have written in asking how you can help, and, yes, I will definitely write a post about that, but I want you to know that you've already helped because of the support that we received from the SBA.
What was it like?
Many other small business owners have asked me about our experience applying for and getting this loan. I hope my experience can help light the way for others.
First, we had all our books up to date.
I had been applying for some other funding, so our books, Employer Identification Number (EIN), and records were entirely current. This meant that I had all the financial data verified and sitting at the ready. That helped A LOT.
Our first application was put through the general FEMA system, which was where we were initially directed to apply. This took literally HOURS of time to fill out and was a GIGANTIC pain in the butt, requiring printing, signing, and scanning multiple pages.
We received a confirmation number and I miraculously had the foresight to download my draft application in case that whole application was lost (foreshadowing). I never remember to download confirmations, but somehow, this time, I did... all 45 or so pages of it.
I'm an obsessive tracking page refresher -- you know this if you've placed an order through our site, and I know you're an obsessive tracking page refresher too.
Our application was in "processing" for about a week, and then one day, the page was entirely replaced with a list of downloadable forms that we needed to upload through a Box link. I immediately downloaded all the forms, filled them out, and uploaded them in the correct order, including all our financial statements and everything (just for good measure).
Again, it was a good thing that I happened to have JUST run our financials, and JUST filled out what basically was the same form, because I had all that information tidily in some folders, all ready to go.
I called in to check on the status of our application and was on hold for 2 hours as my slot in line counted down from 380 to 1... rang twice, and then the line went dead. oof.
The thing is, I don't blame anyone for this. They're CRUSHED under the amount of work, and they're not set up for the kind of speed or volume they currently have to handle. These are unprecedented times. Things are going to fall apart.
That Box upload page was only up for a few days before it was replaced with a MUCH, MUCH, MUCH simpler form: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/
🔥 Hot tip: If you have friends who have small businesses, share THAT page with them, because it's a bit of a sticky wicket to find.
A week or so later (? Time has lost all meaning), I got a call from a weird-looking 800 number I assumed was spam, but AMAZINGLY, it was the loan officer who had some questions about our application. I was able to answer them easily, and she promised to get back to me in a few days with some news.
She did get back to me with news: We were approved, and we were going on to the next level. 😅
I felt like The Masked Singer when I heard that. I truly felt like I was in some kind of qualifying round, which we had passed.
Then, our application went on to her supervisor, then to legal, then to a case manager, who would be responsible for disbursing the funds and following up. To me, knowing how the government works, this sounded like it might be a four month process.
To my AMAZEMENT, our case manager called me within the week to let me know that our paperwork packet was in the mail, AND THEN IT ARRIVED in just a few days.
Of course, I filled it out immediately and scanned it, and sent it to the email address as instructed... the files were so huge that I had to send them in 4 separate emails, and in each email, I included "Part 1 of 4: Outlaw Soaps, Inc [EIN number]", just in case the emails got separated and it wasn't clear what application was what. I also included a table of contents, with "included in current email," "to come," and "already sent in part x of 4" so anyone who opened any of the emails would be able to quickly reference where in the sequence they were.
I think this is ONE VERY CRITICAL PART of working with any government agency, bank, teacher, or anyone who has to deal with gigantic quantities of complex paperwork: You MUST make it easy for them to get through your paperwork, and this means you MUST be outstandingly organized.
This isn't on them, it's on you.
Well, technically, it *is* their job, but they're a relatively small agency handling about 100x the amount of people and paperwork they're supposed to be handling, so it really does help to make things easy for them.
There are 30 million businesses trying to file for loans, and some of them are organized and some aren't. Be the least pain-in-the-ass you can be.
ON A SATURDAY, the investigating paralegal followed-up with me to get some additional forms that I hadn't fully scanned (there are a lot of pages that have to be included with the packet whether or not you fill them in). Then, ON THAT SUNDAY (last Sunday, to be exact), I had such a nice call with Mary, our Case Manager. We worked on our paperwork and it looked like the ducks were in a row (or docs in a row, as the case may be... hyuck hyuck hyuck).
Yesterday, at around 7:00 AM, Mary sent me an email saying that our funds were being disbursed (she didn't want to wake me up with that news... SEE HOW NICE she is? I was blown away).
Today, the funds were in our account. Just like that. We breathed a sigh of relief. We can weather this storm.
We had our team meeting yesterday, and I was so happy to announce that we had been approved for the loan. Everyone still has a job to come to. The layoffs are done, at least for now. We are so relieved.
If you've paid your taxes, you've done this.
THANK YOU for your support at every turn, whether you meant it to come to us or not.
And A HUGE THANK YOU to the SBA, and in particular Susie, Mary, and LaCelle, for processing our paperwork so quickly. It really means so much to us.