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LYNN — Soul City Yoga has been denied a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for the third time, despite being a small business in need.
Located in the Lydia E. Pinkham building, Soul City Yoga is a local, minority-owned business that has felt the financial effects of the pandemic.
After being forced to close a year ago, its founder, Shanel Anderson, and co-owner, Sara Bailey, said this past year has been terrifying.
The duo has 16 employees, including two desk assistants and 14 other teachers, and were forced to make pay cuts and reduce the number of classes provided in order to save money for necessities, such as rent and electricity.
When the first PPP applications were announced, Bailey said that they applied right away but were repeatedly told they needed to submit more paperwork. After months of back-and-forth and phone calls, they were denied the loan by Bank of America because their employees are independent contractors. They were informed this made Soul City Yoga ineligible for support, since their teachers were not considered employees and part of their payroll, even though they are all paid weekly for the classes they teach.
“We have an incredibly unique business structure, in that we are a small business with only 18 employees, including us,” Bailey explained. “I wasn’t sure whether we would qualify or be approved, so the day of, we just decided to apply through Bank of America, which is who we have our business account through.”
She said there was a lot of confusion when applying and that the process was not organized. Bank of America gave them the “run-around” as Bailey described it, explaining that they were constantly asked for more documentation before ultimately being denied.
The duo said it was tough to see other corporations, such as McDonald’s or larger businesses, receive the loan when they weren’t given anything.
Their teachers all pay taxes and are documented as working for Soul City Yoga, and many fitness instructors are paid that way.
“I think that’s the confusion,” Anderson said. “What we understood was that the program was geared towards helping businesses like ours: smaller, minority owned businesses. We checked all these boxes, but then when we were denied for that reason we thought, OK, then so who is eligible?”
They said they were unsure of what to do at that point, thinking that the PPP loan was a given.
They decided to pursue a PPP loan again in December, thinking that they had a better chance since they knew how to navigate the process, but were informed shortly after that Bank of America had denied them again.
After making adjustments and maintaining the support of their clients, the duo realized that they needed more assistance to keep their business from meeting the fate of so many others, closing for good.
They applied one more time, but through Eastern Bank in hopes that the smaller, localized business would see their struggle and want to help. Unfortunately, they were informed on Tuesday that they were denied once again.
“They told us that we should instruct our teachers to apply for their own PPP loan, but we cannot have it on their behalf,” Bailey said.
As a business, Soul City Yoga has been walking on eggshells trying to make it through these tough times one day at a time, Bailey explained.
Paying rent, buying water, maintaining a client base, purchasing sanitary products, keeping the lights on and finding their way around teaching virtually just to keep the doors open acquires a great deal of money and work.
“It’s a lot,” Anderson said. “To not be able to have help to keep it going, and to know that we are one ‘no’ away from having no business at all is really scary.”
Anderson and Bailey are remaining positive, despite the lingering thought of running out of revenue.
“The feedback we get from the community really keeps us going,” Bailey said. “You hear how important and integral we are in their daily headspace and getting through the pandemic. Having us as the outlet for our community, and hearing that we are that for them, has been really nice.”
They said that they are so grateful that they are still in business, as they have seen many small businesses permanently close.
Their property managers, at their Lynn and Malden locations, have been helpful, understanding that their situation is not easy and giving them leeway with the rent.
Self-care and mental health have been negatively affected by the pandemic, and Bailey said that being able to sustain a community of familiar people and teachers has been beneficial.
“It’s been a long road, but I think they are grateful that they can see us, whether it’s virtually or in-person,” she said.
Soul City Yoga has implemented safety precautions, including mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, taking temperatures, purchasing an air purifier and hand sanitizers.
They hope to host outdoor classes again at Red Rock Park when the weather is nicer, allowing for a more comfortable setting.
“I think that the greatest thing our community can do to support us is to come to class and pay for yoga,” Bailey said.
Soul City Yoga is now allowed to host classes at 50 percent capacity, which is 12 people, for the business. They hope that the roll-out of the vaccines will increase the interest in returning to in-person classes.
The owners expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the community and all of the people who have supported them from the beginning and during these tough times.
Allysha Dunnigan can be reached at [email protected].
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