TwispWorks program aims for another round
A new yoga studio, a bed-and-breakfast inn, an organic farm, and a hair salon are among 15 Methow Valley businesses to receive grants through the Small Business Emergency Grant program.
A total of 25 small businesses have received emergency funds through the new program, which was launched last month by TwispWorks to help local businesses impacted by the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants provide $1,500 to businesses to help them pay rent, utilities, and other fixed expenses, as well as helping them develop ways to become more resilient.
Motive Yoga opened its new studio in Winthrop on Feb. 8, and was forced to close the next month, on March 14, due to state efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. A small business emergency grant will help the fledgling business “weather this storm,” said co-owner Bree Dillon.
When the studio was forced to shut down after only five weeks, Dillon said, “The first thing I asked myself as a brand new studio owner was ‘How can we continue to serve the valley’s yoga community, especially in a time like this?’”
She and other teachers at the studio began offering online classes, and the small business grant will help finance the technology and marketing for live-streaming and on-demand videos, and help pay the lease on the studio space, Dillon said.
Twisp River Inn Bed & Breakfast has been closed for two months as a result of the governor’s “stay home, stay healthy” orders. Even though restrictions on travel and lodging are slowly easing, the inn will have reduced lodging capacity due to cleaning and sanitization protocols, said Leverett Hubbard and Denise Tompetrini, who have operated the B&B in the upper Twisp River valley for 15 years.
The emergency grant will be used to pay for local labor and materials for a guest bathroom upgrade. “This will allow the grant to have twice the impact in the local economy,” Hubbard said.
The Small Business Emergency Grant program has raised money and distributed $37,500 during two grant cycles. The program has sought to include a variety of businesses, said Julie Tate-Libby, TwispWorks program director. Priority was given to businesses that hadn’t received other forms of state or federal financial assistance, or that don’t qualify for existing programs, she said. “These are businesses that are falling through the cracks,” she said.
Fundraising is continuing in hopes of providing a third round of funding, Tate-Libby said. “We have 25 more applications from businesses that we would love to fund,” she said.
In the longer term, she said, “we envision pivoting to a post-COVID small business opportunity.” In community “listening sessions” held last year, before the current economic crisis, community members identified a need “to create a more diverse, resilient, non-tourism dependent economy” in the Methow Valley, Tate-Libby said.
“This [pandemic] is a perfect example of what happens when tourism shuts down,” she said. The valley economy has experienced similar setbacks during wildfires, when roads are closed by flooding or slides, or during winters when there isn’t enough snow for skiing, she said.
The grant program would be used to help develop businesses that are less reliant on tourism through opportunities for education, website development, online marketing, and other approaches. “We have a recreation-oriented economy, but what else? We can push for sustainable, carbon-friendly-footprint businesses,” Tate-Libby said. “Everything based on the recreation model is vulnerable.”
Recipients in the second round of the Small Business Emergency Grant funding include Motive Yoga Company, Twisp River Inn Bed & Breakfast, Retro Pony, Sunny Pine Farm, Twisp River Wellness, Hoodoo Blooms, Mary Gray Certified Trainer, North Cascades Mountain Hostel, French Quail Boutique, The Iron Horse, Bella Luna, 3rd Avenue Salon, Winthrop Guitar Studio, Valley Style and Terry’s Appliances.
Initial funding for the emergency grant program was provided by Methow Valley Long Term Recovery and the TwispWorks Foundation. Donations to the program can be made on the TwispWorks website, www.twispworks.org, or mailed to TwispWorks, P.O. Box 264, Twisp WA 98856. Gifts should specify they are for the Small Business Emergency Grants. For more information about the program, email email@example.com.