More than a year into the pandemic, the “open” sign in countless online and retail storefronts has evolved into a universal symbol of the grit of small businesses. Tenacious entrepreneurs nationwide made a way to stay open in spite of all the obstacles.
As part of an effort to amplify these inspiring stories, Wells Fargo has commissioned three artists to design custom “open” signs for businesses that persevered and is also pointing entrepreneurs to resources that can help.
Dedicated to showcasing women and diverse voices, illustrator and graphic designer Sophia Yeshi, is paired with Roxtography, a woman-owned business based near the Colville Reservation, outside of Seattle. Owner Roxanne Best shifted from in-person yoga and photography classes to outdoor stand-up paddleboarding classes and photography that embodies her love of nature.
Precision Productions, a new rental music studio, was just about to open its doors when the pandemic hit. Optimistic owner Kasey Phillips, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, pivoted to a hybrid in-person and virtual studio model, never wavering from his plan to expand the music scene and own his first studio. Taking cues from music while paying homage to Phillips’s Caribbean roots, Korean-born illustrator Deborah Lee, known for her use of bold, vivid colors, is interpreting how Precision Productions made a way to stay open.
“As an artist, it was rewarding to support not just a small business that stayed open in tough economic conditions, but one that’s a platform for creativity,” says Lee.
Writer, illustrator, visual artist and community organizer Gabriela Alemán has a passion for helping combat food insecurity. With her comics and pop art aesthetic, she’s working to bring the mission of PREP Atlanta to life, which focuses on offering diverse food truck owners and caterers access to a commercial kitchen. During the pandemic, PREP Atlanta was a venue for keeping the city’s restaurant and food industry afloat, including for many Black-owned businesses. Aleman will combine her art with a shared dedication to feeding the community as she depicts PREP Atlanta’s grit.
This project comes on the heels of the July 2020 announcement of the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort providing grants to nonprofits that serve small business owners. The fund was created by donating all gross processing fees from Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans made in 2020. The company has also committed not to take a profit from the second round of PPP. Overall, the Open for Business Fund is expected to translate into roughly $1 billion in available financing and 7.5 million hours of technical assistance for small business owners, helping them close the gap on rent, utilities and employee pay, while accessing expertise to adapt for the future.
To learn more about available support or to download an artistic “Open” sign, entrepreneurs can visit wellsfargo.com/together.
“Today ‘open’ signs represent much more than they used to, embodying the ingenuity required to pivot in this ever-evolving economy,” says Jenny Flores, head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “We are inspired every day by small business owners pushing through these tough times, particularly those who have been hard hit. This effort aims to shine a light on stories of resilience so entrepreneurs can learn from each other and seek the resources needed to keep their dreams alive.”
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