“Everyone wants to send me condolences because of what is going on but I tell them, ‘I’m good, guys, I’m okay! COVID has put a lot of people on a different path and this is where our creative and innovative skills have to come together. I’m just so thankful for the Workforce Development Board and the SBDC. I’m so passionate about these two programs. If I didn’t have those two on my team, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today.” - Tara Cruz, owner, Touch of Paradise Spa

Tara Cruz

In the first days after the novel coronavirus brought business and the world as we knew it to a screeching halt in mid-March, Tara Cruz did her best to stay positive.

The owner of Touch of Paradise Spa in downtown Fairfield, Cruz initially thought the closures would last for a week or two. But as the days and weeks went on, a stark reality set in.

“I still get emotional thinking about it,” said Cruz, who fought back tears as she remembered the first month of the COVID-19 outbreak. “This is where I had built everything and put in all my time. We were finally seeing a profit again, and then COVID hit us. And all of it was out of my control, my hands were tied and there was nothing I could do.

“By that third week, I knew I had to do something.”

One of her first calls was to Tim Murrill, the director of the Solano Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Cruz has been an SBDC client for five years, utilizing the free one-on-one consulting and business workshops as she grew her business from an independent consultant to a brick and mortar downtown.

Murrill helped her create her first business plan back in 2015 when she was still a consultant, Cruz said. He also inspired her to “take the leap” and open her own business a couple years later.

“Whenever I have business lows, I’d text Tim late at night and he’d call me right back in the morning and talk me through it,” she said. “He is so reassuring.”

As he shared with her the loan opportunities available to businesses, he told her about layoff aversion fund grants that were available through Solano County’s Workforce Development Board.  The SBDC, which provides its free services to any business with less than 500 employees, operates under the umbrella of the Workforce Development Board. Both organizations share office space at 500 Chadbourne Road in Fairfield.

Cruz was already familiar with the Workforce Development Board. Her first job, at 19 years old, was through the organization’s On the Job training program.  It was such a good experience for her that when she opened her own business, she had two receptionists who were part of the program.

She applied for and was awarded the grant from the Workforce Development Board and utilized the funds to purchase software and equipment that allows her to now offer virtual nails, facials and microdermabrasion treatments to clients.  The loan also helped pay her rent downtown.

With so many uncertainties still looming because of COVID, Cruz is working with SBDC business advisor Molly O’Kane on transitioning her business to online retail.  She also regularly checks in with Murrill, who she considers a mentor.

“I know he’s been down this road I’m traveling on,” she said. “He’s able to guide me and he has helped me to see roadblocks that if he hadn’t been there, I would never have seen or been prepared for.”

Although the future of her brick and mortar location is uncertain because of COVID, Cruz is full of optimism. She is very excited to transition her business online

“Everyone wants to send me condolences because of what is going on but I tell them, ‘I’m good, guys, I’m okay!” Cruz exclaimed. “COVID has put a lot of people on a different path and this is where our creative and innovative skills have to come together.

“I’m just so thankful for the Workforce Development Board and the SBDC,” she added. “I’m so passionate about these two programs. If I didn’t have those two on my team, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

COVID-19

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.