Photos and logos property of Art Impressions Gallery and Sullivan Creative. Used with permission.

“One of my passions is to help small businesses,” said Garnetta Sullivan, owner of her own two small businesses, Art Impressions Gallery and Framing and Sullivan Creative in Sedalia, Missouri.

On the Sullivan Creative side, Sullivan enjoys helping people get started in business, helping them improve their business, and making them “look good.”

“I’m a graphic designer and commercial artist,” said Sullivan. “I do everything from logo design to website design … anything that needs to be designed.”

On the Art Impressions Gallery and Framing side, she features Missouri artists, many of whom are juried Best of Missouri Hands artists.

Photos used with permissionA lot of the artists whose work is displayed and sold at Art Impressions, “that is their livelihood,” Sullivan said. They make their money from shows and gallery sales.

When the novel coronavirus started spreading across the U.S. and stay-at-home orders were issued, “just like everybody else in the country … we were all blindsided,” Sullivan said. It felt like falling into “an abyss with absolutely no way out. It was very frightening.”

“It scared the dickens out of me,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan felt that the triple whammy of being a small and woman-owned, arts business put her businesses at the greatest risk. The arts are “the first ones to go and the last ones to recover,” she said.

So, when she heard that Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was being legislated, she reached out to her bank.

“The bank really couldn’t give me much information, and they couldn’t clarify anything,” Sullivan said.

“I didn’t want to just sit and wait for somebody at the bank or rely on the news media,” Sullivan said. So, she next reached out to Kelly Asbury, director of the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at State Fair Community College in Sedalia.

“I knew that she was probably going to be inundated with people with questions and fears and needing information,” Sullivan said. “I told her, if you’ve got a little spot of time, I have questions, if you can help.”

Within a few hours, Asbury had sent Sullivan an email with a link to the Missouri SBDC website for information and to sign up to receive services. Shortly after that, they were on the phone.

“I had tons of questions and she very patiently, with a lot of knowledge, answered everything that I asked,” Sullivan said. “You could tell she knew what she was talking about.”

“[Sullivan] reached out when they had to shut the doors,” Asbury said. She wanted information about the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“I thought you could only do one or the other,” Sullivan said. “But [Asbury] said, ‘No, you get out there and you apply for both.’”

Sullivan was distraught, Asbury said. But she is one of those clients that “takes what she learns and she runs with it. That’s why she’s still in business.”

“I had a lot of work ahead of me,” Sullivan said about filling out and submitting her applications. “But at least [Asbury] explained how things, at that point, were working.”

Before and After Photos used with permissionAsbury kept on top of the changes that occurred over the following weeks, Sullivan said. “We are so blessed to have the SBDC here and Kelly is just unbelievable.”

During this time, Sullivan became an ambassador of sorts for the Missouri SBDC.

“I reached out to my accountant and another accounting office and let them know about [Asbury] and what she was doing so that they could contact her, because they were getting a lot of businesses coming to them that were lost,” Sullivan said. “I still send people to her … people that are interested in starting businesses. ‘You've got a wonderful resource right here in Sedalia.’”

Even with the drastic reduction of business during the early months of the pandemic, Sullivan was able to keep her “one wonderful employee” working.

When they didn’t have customers coming in, they were photographing pieces, posting on Facebook, rearranging, cleaning, “whatever we needed to do,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to keep Janet employed.”

Asbury said that Sullivan’s main concern was how she could keep food on her employee’s table. Sullivan told Asbury she would be fine, that she just worried about her employee. “That’s Garnetta, and that’s her heart.”

Thanks to the PPP, Sullivan has been able to continue to pay her employee despite the reduced business.

And thanks to the EIDL, she can currently pay her operating expenses. “I hung in there,” Sullivan said. “But probably the first of August, if I hadn’t gotten that EIDL, I would have had to shut my doors.”

To keep the doors open, Sullivan has adjusted her business model to include online shopping.

It’s a slow process because everything in the gallery is one of a kind, Sullivan said. For example, “even though an artist might make mugs, each mug is totally different.” And each individual item has be to photographed. “It takes time.”

Having an online store makes selling art easier during a time when people may be reluctant to meander through a physical gallery. Now, they have the option of meandering through the gallery online, paying online, and then picking up their art curbside on Ohio Avenue in Sedalia.

Of course, customers are still welcome in the physical gallery, where masks are being worn and social distancing is being practiced.

Without the CARES funds Sullivan received, Art Impressions Gallery and Framing might not have made it long enough to set up an online store — a store that is not only helping that business stay afloat but is also helping to generate income for the artists whose work is on display there.

Sullivan, a self-professed “let-me-help-you person,” has been doing business as Sullivan Creative for around 25 years and has had the art gallery for 20. She considers the art gallery her way to give back to the community, and she is grateful for the guidance she received from the SBDC during the early days of the pandemic.

“Kelly Asbury was a lifesaver!” Sullivan said. “[The Missouri] SBDC is an absolutely fabulous resource.”




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