Preschool owner keeps business open during pandemic, with help from UGA

Harmony Learning Academy in Lithia Springs was posting an excellent first quarter for 2020. Enrollment for the year-old preschool had grown to 60 children, nine full-time and one part-time employees, and earnings were up.

When the coronavirus forced it to close on March 13, owner Josie Moss furloughed her staff and began looking at ways to keep the business afloat. She applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, then checked in with her consultant Todd Anduze, area director of the UGA Small Business Development Center at the University of West Georgia.

“Todd has always encouraged me to maintain a relationship with my lender who, as things rolled out, helped me prepare the loan documents and submitted my application,” Moss said. “I received the funds less than two weeks later.”

Funding through the PPP, part of the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress in the spring, allowed Moss to pay her administrative staff, who worked remotely.

But with only eight weeks to spend the PPP in order to have the loan forgiven, Moss needed guidance from Anduze. He told her what to focus on and to stagger the staff’s return. He also suggested she apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, also part of the CARES Act.

“Good business owners move towards a goal and look at everything—the budget, financials, business plan, executing the business plan—they don’t just shoot from the hip. Josie had made this move from entrepreneur to professional business owner. It’s been to her benefit, especially now,” he said.

Harmony Learning Academy reopened on June 1, following the CDC’s new cleaning and safety protocols. Enrollment doubles weekly, and Moss and her staff remain in contact with parents, encouraging them to return.

“This time can be very scary, especially for a new business owner,” Moss said. “Follow your team, which for me includes my lender and Todd, who can answer any question. Just ask, and use your resources like the SBDC effectively and efficiently.”