World-class climber, and The North Face team athlete, Emily Harrington, agrees with this sentiment and shares, “Small businesses in mountain communities such as Tahoe (my home) are the backbone to our way of life here. They form the foundations that support our passion for exploration and preservation of wild places.”
The Sierra’s communities, environment, and economy’s recovery in the wake of the pandemic depend on business innovation, economic and environmental resilience, and regional advocacy. SBC’s Resilience Fund provides critical emergency economic support, guidance, and resources to impacted businesses and nonprofits in the Sierra Nevada. The Resilience Fund aggregates donated and invested money into a revolving fund for small businesses to access as low-interest microloans, most ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, for use as operating capital. So far, more than 120 local businesses have applied for loans, and the SBC is processing close to half that. The program has already returned 160 people to work in a state where unemployment might be approaching 25 percent.
“While the public might not see a new awning or new tables or tangible upgrades, what they will see is that the business is up and running again,” says Polivy. “That’s what we’re looking to see.”
The SBC Resilience Fund also provides coaching and mentoring to organizations during the crisis, with the goal of helping them emerge intact and stronger. “Everyone who has entered the fund has a one-on-one coach,” says Sierra Business Council president Steve Frisch. “It’s a wide range of skills they’ve brought to the table.” Businesses put through the program access a network of professional consultants across industries—from technology and software to retail and logistics to guiding companies—to revamp existing operations, strategize communicating changes to their stakeholders, and maximize productivity during closures.
Leslie Williams, a small business development consultant based in Tahoe who is serving as a Resilience Fund coach, brings 30 years of banking experience to her conversations with local businesses. In the last month, she’s helped Tahoe retailers and guide operations find capital, develop recovery plans and take ownership of their finances.
“This fund showed up at a great time, and for all the right reasons,” says Williams. “Small businesses are savvy, but they have been extremely grateful to have someone to talk with. I’ve been so impressed by the true entrepreneur spirit—always looking for a solution, asking questions and wanting to move forward.”
Just like Granite Chief, Polivy’s Tahoe Mountain Sports went through budgetary changes, staffing issues and general soul searching during its COVID-19 closure.
“Rather than the traditional model of donating to national giving operations, it’s refreshing to see The North Face investing directly in a community and in businesses that foster recreation and help retain a town’s character,” says Polivy. “It gives The North Face on-the-ground credibility and shows national brands do have a local pulse. This also gives national recognition for the importance that communities and gateway communities play in the prosperity of our public land.”
The Resilience Fund wasn’t capped at a static dollar amount, allowing for on-going donations and an evolving fund. To donate, lend or learn more about the fund, please visit resiliencefund.org.