Women’s Business Center helps DC small business thrive during pandemic

Nicole Mires is an acupuncturist who started her small business, Pekoe Acupuncture and Wellness Center, in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. She has successfully run her business since, a remarkable feat considering only 50% of small businesses make it past 5 years

Mires relocated Pekoe twice over the years but finally found a home in Washington, D.C.’s historic Shaw neighborhood. Despite knowing this was where she wanted to put down more permanent roots, her first location in the neighborhood was a rented space. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mires decided to purchase property for the business in the same neighborhood.

Her plan was to seek a bank loan, so she reached out for assistance to the DC Women’s Business Center (DCWBC) in late March 2020, right as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit this region hard. Despite changes in how DCWBC helped and interacted with clients, the team was still able to help her complete financial statements and identify opportunities with investors and loans. At the same time, Mires started the process of applying for disaster relief with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and began to fill out her applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) in hopes that the programs would sustain her business through September, so that she could qualify for purchase of a building. 

Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., was under emergency shutdown due to the pandemic. Mires’ business was only able to accept essential medical appointments, causing an 80% drop in income and greatly impacting her goal to purchase a property. A DCWBC counselor provided Mires with information about the SBA assistance programs and Opportunity Zones, as well as other guidance to complete her financial spreadsheets for her business plan, which she would need for her loan applications. After working with the DCWBC for just two weeks, Mires was able to submit her loan applications to SBA, and was subsequently awarded a generous loan from the EIDL program in June. 

Now, in December, with a bank loan newly approved (and waiting on the SBA side of the loan), Pekoe Acupuncture & Wellness Center will be able to purchase and renovate a lovely corner building just nine blocks away from their current location. 

“I was so thankful for the support and guidance I received from the DCWBC over the past few months. Let’s hope we hear some good news from the SBA soon, so that we can close swiftly and begin digging out the new spot!” Mires said.

Heidi Sheppard is the Project Director of the DCWBC.

Sade McKoy is the communications specialist for DCWBC.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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