Staying in business in an era of canceled orders but continuing expenses is the economic art form of the times
Long-time NFIB member Alzada Knickerbocker has agreed to write some profiles of the extraordinary people who make up the membership of the nation’s leading small-business association. Below, is her story on Denise Duncan, a member of NFIB California’s leadership council.
When we think pandemic and its effects on businesses, we think of painful close-downs that, nevertheless, are beginning to ease up to include limited reopening and tentative patronage. We hear of businesses successfully sheltering in place and operating from home.
But for many–most–small businesses here in California neither is a possibility or a reality. Take Denise Duncan and her independent business. For her, if the shutdown continues, adapting’s not an option and difficult economic decisions potentially lie ahead.
Denise’s past is her own. Her present is shared statewide. Denise grew up in a family of makers of things. Her great grandfather manufactured refrigerated milk tanks; her dad made abrasive blasting equipment.
As an adult, she became an outside salesperson for her dad’s and other companies. Nine years ago, she became an owner. She and her business partner, Lance Nord, opened their own business, Solutions 4 Blast, that sold abrasive blasting equipment for specialized needs. To that, they added AT Industrial Products, a manufacturer making and selling equipment for the capture of combustible metal dusts generated during the cutting, grinding, and polishing of metals. Wet dust collectors prevent those same combustible metals from igniting when handled on-site.
More recently, they absorbed a third business. In 2014, they joined NFIB as a member as her father had been before. She came on the state board in 2018, believing in the power of member numbers to influence lawmakers at the state and national level.
Over time, she and her partner grew their business with an office manager, a couple of sales people, and off-site shop technicians to make, service, and install their products. They served local customers and those across the country.
Then came 2020. In an election year, as manufacturers, they anticipated lower sales since buyers normally wait for political results to determine future purchasing.
But then came the pandemic requiring they shut down altogether. Major orders were canceled while customary expenses continued. Denise has taken advantage of a PPP loan. But now it’s regular ordering and the normalized pace of business she needs. When asked her biggest challenge and accomplishment, she answers immediately, “being able to stay in business.”
The governor, California legislators in general, and her representatives in particular should be responsive to her and all small business owners. She states they should “reach out to us,” understand our plight, appreciate our value, and let us get back to work.
She summarizes, “I hope California turns around.” If not, she’ll move. And take her business to a state where she can do business. California is a state of independent businesses–all with histories of ingenuity, risk-taking, tenacity, and economic contribution. Businesses with histories like Denise’s.
California should keep them by opening up. Denise’s business is one example, one best example, of what California has had, has–and can’t afford to lose.