An Atlanta native and military veteran, Felicia Parks is an African American owner of a Jimmy Johns franchise in Southwest Georgia. With nearly six years under her belt as a franchisee she had hired over 75 employees and had hit a stride in business, but nothing could have prepared her for the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandated temporary shutdowns it required. Although she applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the timing took longer than expected, requiring Parks to tap into personal finances and retirement to maintain operations, prior to learning of ACE. With the help of a $25,000 emergency working capital loan from ACE in April of 2020, Felicia was able to withstand the early and immediate impacts of a 63% decline in sales, which created challenges with paying vendors and maintaining staff.
ACE also provided her access to their free online educational resource for clients, which allowed her to tap into everything from financial operational support to COVID specific resources. This business development support coupled with initial loan payment deferments- followed by 6 months of earned loan forgiveness- gave Felicia the time and space to recalibrate and stabilize operations for her business.
Parks is a pillar in the community and one who always prided herself on investing in youth and building good community ties. As a single mother of two sons and an Army Veteran who completed a degree in international business, she is a natural leader, who understood that her community was hurting and in the trenches. Even with early challenges, she delivered directly to clients when they were unable to pick-up, and regularly offered free food to essential workers. Understanding that failure was not an option and with the help of her sons, she began to pivoting business by promoting pickup, adding Door Dash®, and a loyalty program which includes promotions. Although revenue is not at pre-COVID-19 levels, it has certainly picked up.
Parks is also utilizing Initiate, ACE’s newest business development tool, an online platform offering – in Spanish and English – over 100 money, marketing, and management tools, videos, templates and guides, including COVID-19 specific support.
“The ACE team is amazing. My lender truly saw me and my business needs. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was struggling financially and unable to pay some vendors. With the continued support of ACE, I’ve been able to get back to my passion of serving the community and supporting youth – particularly those of color – with jobs as they build life skills.”Felicia Parks