While many businesses struggled to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, one Arkansas business actually saw an increase in clients. But that increase, and the pandemic, led to a different set of problems for the business. 

Heather Sanders started Perfect Balance LLC financial services in 2018 in North Little Rock, Arkansas, on a part-time basis. By August 2019, she moved to the business full time. The business aims to assist small businesses and organizations with their finances. Heather provided one-on-one consulting to clients to guide them on their finances. Perfect Balance offers bookkeeping services, accounting consultation and training and hotel accounting services. Her meetings with her clients were often face to face. 

But in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the country, and personal consultations had to cease for safety reasons.  

 But as the pandemic took hold, Heather’s business saw an uptick in demand as businesses struggled to survive significant revenue drop because of customers staying home for safety reasons or closures enacted by local or state governments. She also began helping small business owners apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan for COVID-19 relief. The demand became increasingly difficult for the business. 

Heather needed a way to continue working with clients without endangering herself, her staff or her clients. She came up with a few ideas, but she would need some financial assistance to complete her plans. 

Heather found what she needed with Communities Unlimited. 

Adapting Amid a Crisis 

Heather devised several changes to her business to respond to the new restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 crisis. She came up with a plan to implement a new secure online virtual meeting space, turning the one-on-one meetings with clients into virtual ones. She would need more equipment to get her new business protocols up to full speed. She also decided she needed to hire a part-time staff member to help with day-to-day operations as clients poured in needing assistance to weather the pandemic and the many closures it created. 

Heather began working with Lending Associate Kevin Tillman to determine the best loan for her plans. Kevin helped her determine that a Pivot Loan would work best for her. 

Heather applied for a Pivot Loan, one of the Recovery Loan products created by Communities Unlimited to assist small businesses through the pandemic. The Pivot Loan is for businesses who want to enact other goods or services to keep their business going during the COVID-19 crisis. The other product, the Reboot Loan, assists businesses who are trying to stay open or are trying to reopen during the pandemic. 

Heather said her experience with Communities Unlimited was easier than expected.  

“It was one of the best experiences that I’ve had because it was my first loan with my business, and as I went through the application, I stopped filling it out at first, because you needed assets. I reached that asset line and just stopped,” she said. 

“Kevin reached out to me and I told him I didn’t have any real assets to add, and he said no, this was difference circumstances, and he encouraged me to finish the process.”  

She did, requesting a Pivot Loan in the amount of $5,000 on May 29, 2020. She received approval of the loan on June 11. The loan would allow her to hire the additional staff member and to implement the virtual meeting space so she could conduct Bookkeeping/Accounting meetings online with her clients.  

“This money allowed me to create a way to send things to my clients electronically,” she said. “It also helped me expand my services that I offered. I also did some marketing and bought more equipment.” 

While most clients receiving Pivot Loans used the funds to try to stay afloat, Heather needed the funding to meet an increased demand.  

Using the Pivot Loan, Heather was able to add the staff necessary to assist local businesses through the pandemic. She also was able to move her meetings online and keep both her staff and her clients safe.  

“It was the easiest process I’ve been through, and the most beneficial process, as well,” she said.  

“I would encourage small businesses that need to expand and want to grow and aren’t really sure what the next step is…that [Communities Unlimited] is a great resource,” Heather said. “I would encourage them to reach out.