Small businesses need grants, not loans

  • Challenging times: Betty-Anne Burch, left, and Happy Lindsay at X Girl Friend when it was located in Paget (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Challenging times: Betty-Anne Burch, left, and Happy Lindsay at X Girl Friend when it was located in Paget (Photograph by Akil Simmons)


Grants, rather than loans, are what small businesses need to help them through during the Covid-19 crisis, says one North Hamilton retailer.

That is the view of Betty-Anne Burch of X Girl Friend clothing store on Court Street after The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation announced that as much as $12 million in grants and direct loans and another $12 million worth of guarantees on bank and other loans will be made available to small and medium-sized business struggling during the Covid-19 crisis.

On Monday the BEDC revealed they will offer small businesses direct grants of up to $15,000, as part of their business assistance programme.

However Ms Burch said many start-ups would not qualify for the grants.

“A loan makes no sense for many small businesses, because it has to be paid back,” Ms Burch said. “Who wants to put themselves in further debt? I know I don’t. You have to give something back to the people who are trying to build something to help the rest of community.”

Of those small business owners who stand to miss on the relief package, she said: “Certain things may not be paid because we are just starting business.

“We need some type of relief, as well, in order to continue. That is for anyone who has a small business, not just people on Court Street.

“People who may not qualify for the stimulus package should be given some type of grant in order to continue.

“Some people have taken out loans to get businesses up and going. I saved my money and put my savings forward to open up my business.”

Ms Burch has degrees in merchandising, fashion design and business. She opened X Girl Friend near the Paget traffic lights in August. Then in January, she moved to Court Street to provide better parking for her customers, and to catch more walk-in traffic.

In the time since she has been running her X Girl Friend shop on Court Street, just north of Dundonald Street, there have been three shootings in the neighbourhood.

“During one of them a bullet came straight through my shop,” she said. “Luckily, I was closed that day.”

And after the shootings, the walk-in traffic dried up.

“Nobody comes around to shop after a shooting,” she said.

She said North Hamilton was already struggling, economically, before Covid-19 hit and Bermuda went into lockdown.

“We definitely need help,” she said. She would also like to see a cap put on people shopping abroad, directly after crisis.

“If all everyone does is shop long distance then we are fighting a losing battle,” she said. “I lived away for 15 years, so I understand people wanting better prices, but when I came back to Bermuda, I always tried to purchase on my island, understanding that buying things in your community, and buying quality, costs money.”

She said supporting local businesses allows them to grow, evolve and provide more products that the community wants. It also allows them to employ more people from the community.

She hopes that the lockdown ends before Bermuda Day on May 29.

“That would give us a retail boost as well,” she said. “People would want to come out and purchase some things. They will want to go out and have fun.”

In the meantime she is staying busy exercising and doing projects around the house that she normally doesn’t get to.

“I am praying that everyone is safe and sound, whether they are here, or somewhere else in the world,” she said. “We need to have empathy for others.”

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Published Apr 22, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 22, 2020 at 7:52 am)

Small businesses need grants, not loans

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