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Located in downtown Pittsfield, Elegant Stitches, a minority-owned firm, entered the 2020 fiscal year with a 23 percent increase in annual sales as a result of a Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation loan for the implementation of their new interactive e-commerce website.

Despite the increase in annual sales, the COVID-19 outbreak introduced a new set of challenges for small businesses such as Elegant Stitches that rely on businesses, schools and teams to be functionally open in a traditional sense.

Similar to many small businesses across the country, Elegant Stitches suffered a significant decrease in its annual sales and output as a result of COVID-19.

College team sales has become a very important part of the company’s annual sales. Online stores for college teams were ready to launch for the spring sports when COVID hit. The company understood the severity of the moment and approached it with a sense of urgency, assessing its priorities and making the necessary pivots.

The 24-year-old company utilized its network in the branded apparel industry to identify a reliable supplier for domestically produced custom personal protective equipment before many of its competitors. It fulfilled orders for several local businesses, such as Morrison Home Improvements, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Haddad Dealership, as well as national organizations, such as Color of Change. The company went from decorating apparel to being a PPE provider for communities across the country.

In many ways, COVID highlighted several of the issues that plague our country, whether that is the obsolescence of domestic manufacturing, an increase in the wealth gap, or racial inequality. For a company like Elegant Stitches, these factors were felt more under the conditions of COVID. Fortunately for us, we were able to identify a few resources, such as the Foundation for Business Equity, that addressed these issues with a business model that provided both financial capital and consulting to their clients.

The initiative focuses on scaling businesses of color to create greater wealth creation for business owners and key principals and create more jobs with family-sustaining wages in our urban communities. The Elegant Stitches team credits much of its success to the help it received from them.

There were other resources, such as the Paycheck Protection Program loan, a city of Pittsfield grant, and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, that helped to alleviate some of the pressure. What helped the most were people coming together as a collective and finding creative ways to help small businesses.

One thing that can be learned from the outbreak is that there are different ways that we can be of assistance to each other in building our community. We are all in this together. We look forward to returning to normal life soon.

Alfred Enchill is president and owner of Elegant Stitches.