Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have encountered a great deal of conflict, particularly those that are new or relatively new. Even without a global health crisis, not many people are able to make their business dreams come true, especially within a few short years.
Tim Kotschwar is one of the lucky few whose hard work and dedication led to his business not only surviving its early years, but thriving during the pandemic.
Owner of Alliance Community Pharmacy in Alliance, Nebraska, Tim’s vision started edging its way into reality after a contact in his local economic development corporation recommended the Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP).
After one phone call with the Center, Tim was ready to chase his dream.
“When I first had the idea to open my own pharmacy, REAP helped me,” he said. “Without them, I would’ve had a very hard time getting started.”
The Center’s small business program offers four essential services: financing (microloans), business training, technical assistance, and networking. Entrepreneurs can create business plans, research potential markets and marketing ideas, discuss management issues with experienced business specialists, and apply for small business loans.
Those business specialists helped him gather what he needed to get funding and create a business plan. Through financing from the Center, Tim purchased a building for the pharmacy, as well as equipment such as computers in June 2018. In October 2020, he relocated his business.
Tim continues to work with Center Loan Specialist Anthony Gurrola.
“Anthony comes in and touches base on a routine basis just to see how we're doing,” said Tim. “It’s great to have someone check on our progress, someone who has our best interests in mind.”
Anthony said Tim has made smart decisions that have helped him stay open and support his community.
“He recently upgraded, and is doing really well, especially in the COVID-19 era,” said Anthony. “Tim has adapted services to include testing and vaccinations, once they become available, and his business continues to grow.”
The pharmacist says he feels lucky to have been able to stay open.
“Except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we haven’t closed our doors one single day during the pandemic,” said Tim. “Business has been pretty good, we haven’t noticed much of a dip.”
That’s due, in part, to a drive-through lane that allows customers to practice social distancing, as well as free prescription deliveries on request.
The growth also includes a boost in staff numbers. Tim opened the pharmacy with one part-time and three full-time staff members, including himself. Now, he has three part-time and five full-time employees.
Tim acknowledges this growth and success began with the assistance he received through the Center, and keeps that in mind for the future.
“If it weren’t for the assistance, I probably wouldn't be here, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today,” he said. “The staff have been extremely helpful. I always know they will be there if I need to expand.”
At a glance
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