For Saybrook Jewelry Designer, a Line of Credit May be a Life Line
As a small business owner hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Old Saybrook jewelry designer Alicia Winalski is relying on a zero-interest line of credit for women- and minority-owned businesses funded by the state. (Photo by Sandra Dalton)
Design by Alicia Winalski (Photo by Sandra Dalton)
Alicia Winalski has been the owner of Nyman Jewelers in Old Saybrook for about 20 years and, like any other business owner anywhere in the U.S., has never faced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.
While her doors are closed to the public, she has rent to pay. She has also continued to pay her two employees—one full time and one part time—for their regular hours since the start of the crisis, she said. But as is the case for many small business owners in this climate, her employees have been reluctant to come in and have chosen to file for unemployment instead.
“[E]verything has fallen on me now,” Winalski said, “but...I am also the one who owns the business, so it should fall on me.”
Winalski is in the process of applying for a zero-interest line of credit for women- and minority-owned businesses funded by the state and administered by the Hartford Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO). The maximum available per business is $20,000, but the average approved is around $10,000, said Sheila Hummel of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
“We’re not even talking about a lot of money,” said Hummel. “It’s cash flow for the next three months. What do you need to still stay open? What is your income? What are your expenses? What is the difference?”
The program was “a response to the crisis for the mom-and-pop type businesses because it’s for businesses that have 20 employees or less, full or part-time,” she continued.
“We determined that there was a need after listening to people,” she said. Many businesses that are owned by women and/or minorities felt “they got shut out of a lot of other programs.”
The money was redirected from another program designed for women- and minority-owned businesses in order to address the situation local shops and services find themselves in, due to this health crisis, according to Hummel.
Doing My Hardest to Stay
Winalski designs and creates one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry at her studio in Hadlyme, which she usually sells at craft fairs, in her Old Saybrook store, and by way of shops around the country. Her store also offers jewelry from estate sales, a small selection of clothing, handmade pottery, and other items.
Calling her approach “metamorphic design,” Winalski takes much of her inspiration from nature and repurposes materials from older or broken pieces.
She’s had so much success with her line of jewelry that she’s had to pull back when the demand exceeded what she could produce.
Some other designers “became extremely popular and can’t keep up [with orders] so they have to be manufactured,” she explained. “Originally their ideas are handmade, but now everything is mass produced.”
Winalski has resisted the temptation to mass-produce her work.
“Everything is made at the shop for the order,” she said. “I’ve had to gear it down a little bit because I can’t keep up.”
Now that she’s had to close her doors, she’s been reaching out to her customers, letting them know she’s still coming in. Ordinarily, Winalski has an ongoing conversation about the design of the piece. But it’s now much more difficult to meet one-on-one with her clients.
“Your items are in my space,” she’s been telling them. “I ask them if they want to come in and meet with me. Some people don’t want to do that.”
In addition, two owners of shops that carry her jewelry contacted her recently to cancel their orders.
“It’s a trickle down,” she said. “They have all been shut down as well.”
Small businesses like hers are “why people come and move to small towns,” she said. “A lot of them aren’t going to be here” after this health crisis is over.
“I’m doing my hardest to stay,” she added.
Thus far, the line of credit program has received around 400 applications and 120 have been approved, according to Hummel. The deadline to apply is April 30.
“The money should be on the street next week,” Hummel said.
The Connecticut Minority Business Initiative is also a partner on this statewide program and various local organizations are providing additional support.
More information about the line of credit, along with instructions and forms, may be found at www.hedcoinc.com/state-of-ct-hedco-decd-covid-19.
Images of Alicia Winalski’s jewelry can be found at aliciawinalski.com, as well as her Facebook page.