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Small Businesses Ready for Spring After Brutal Winter

Author: Katie Truesdell Date: April 10, 2014

Effects of a record-setting cold may linger for months.

2014’s brutal winter weather has been one of the worst on record across the United States, so much that it has caused almost $5 billion in damage ($2 billion above average) to homes, businesses, infrastructure and agriculture, reported USA Today.

Among those hit the hardest are small business owners, who have faced dips in sales and income as well as production and delivery delays. On top of that, they often have less wiggle room in cash flow to compensate than bigger companies.

Small business owners push past the frigid polar vortex.

For Katy Kassian, who runs Buffalo Gals Mercantile in Regan, N.D., severe winter weather and closed roads presented a problem for order deliveries.

“One of my wholesale accounts dropped me because three weeks in a row, their baked goods were delayed and not fresh,” Kassian says. Determined not to face a similar issue again, she got in her Jeep and drove 75 miles north to hand-deliver them to a client after her regular driver couldn’t get to her farm from Bismarck.

Teajai Kimsey, owner of custom doll-clothes company Annique’s Nook in Wichita, Kan., relies on employees coming to work to sew. But the first-year business was challenged when snowstorms shut it down for three days.

“It was bad because our production schedule is completely full, and any shutdown means orders go out late. Parents really aren’t happy when that happens,” Kimsey says. “With our reputation on the line, it’s certainly a threat to our small, growing business.”

To make amends with upset customers, Kimsey has given a few refunds, but she says her clientele has been understanding and willing to wait during delays caused by forces of nature.

Call it spring, but lasting effects remain.

Consumers braved the weather only for the necessities, which caused canceled appointments and disappointing sales numbers for businesses such as veterinarians, optometrists, dentists, chiropractors, pet groomers, financial planners, restaurants and retail stores, says Michelle Pippin, a business consultant from Chesapeake, Va.

The effect of reduced income and sales is wide-reaching, says David Goldin, CEO and founder of New York City-based AmeriMerchant, which provides working capital solutions for businesses. Without an emergency fund to cover the gap, consequences may include hiring freezes, trouble keeping up with bills and inability to repair weather damages to equipment or the building.

Now, as much as they can, small business owners should strategize for next winter by planning to monitor the weather closely, encouraging customers to order in advance and attempting early deliveries whenever possible.

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