Erin Christen started making her own body products at home four years ago after struggling with health problems.
“After I had two kids, my body just kind of shut down, said Christen, who owns Earthganics in Milford. "And, I have a slew of illnesses."
Her solution was to make her own soap, lotion, deodorant and more. The next thing she knew, she was in full product production in her home. That is, until COVID-19 slowed her momentum.
“I lost the part of the business where I set up for craft shows," Christen said. “A lot of the shows canceled, even through this winter. A lot of the boosters for the high schools have canceled their shows. So, that side of my business flatlined.”
It is a story that Clermont County government leaders have heard from many small businesses around the county. That is why the county is increasing the amount of money available for small businesses through its Small Business Relief Initiative. The county started out allocating $200,000 for small businesses. But, when leaders saw the response, the amount was increased to $500,000, and now an additional $500,000 has been added.
“We in Clermont County are making $1 million available for small business grants,” said David Painter, president of the Clermont County Commission.
“Small businesses have to operate on a very tight budget," Painter added. "And obviously, the corona(virus) relief fund would not only aid them, but it would help with some of the impact they’ve seen because of the shutdown of the economy.”
Clermont County is making the grants available to qualified applicants that are either for-profit or nonprofit companies with fewer than 50 workers and have seen a loss of 35 percent or more of their revenues or receipts compared to last year.
Companies with one to 10 employees can apply for $5,000. Companies with 11 to 50 employees can apply for $10,000. The grants can be used to pay for things like mortgage or rent, utilities, employee salaries, supplies and personal protective equipment. The deadline to apply is Oct. 31 at 4:30 p.m.
“The relief is going to allow me to keep those employees employed. Keep the roof over our heads right now,” said Christen, who has been approved for $5,000.
Painter said the funds are from the CARES Act money sent to Ohio and distributed by state lawmakers. The state of Ohio released $650,000 in the latest round of funding in September. Clermont County received $7.4 million.
“Out of that first $500,000, 58 companies will receive a grant," Painter said. “Anything that we can do to ensure that the economic health of Clermont County is maintained is something that’s very important to us.”
For Christen, one of the items she makes is hand sanitizer, which has been in great demand since the pandemic struck.
“At the time it was so hard to find hand sanitizer. And I had all these bottles, all these lids. I had the capability of making it,” she said.
She now has an office and sells at Findlay Market and other local retailers.
She said she's encouraged by the uptick in demand for some of her products, but still has some concerns.
“I’m scared. I’m already working on my holiday sets for Christmas, which we’re halfway into October. But, you have to have deadlines on photos and get all your inventory in,” she said.
Meanwhile, if awarded, all grant dollars must be spent within 60 days.