The Small Business Administration (SBA) Peaks to Plains Business Resiliency Tour stopped by Spa 30 in Shelby on Dec. 16 to visit with co-owner, Loralee Aikins on how her business is adapting to make ends meet during the pandemic. Aikins co-owns Spa 30 with Jen Marsicano. The circles on the map indicate which towns the tour has visited to date. Pictured with Aikins are SBA marketing specialist, Andy Shirtliff, left, and district director, Brent Donnelly, center.

The year is coming to a close and what a year it has been. Heartache, struggle and uncertainty have touched us all but there have been some silver linings and those are what should be focused on. People have stepped up to help each other, generosity has been shown and the importance of community has been realized. 

Supporting local businesses has taken on even more importance and recognizing those throughout the state is the point behind Montana Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Peaks to Plains Business Resiliency Tour through 56 counties, highlighting different small businesses and the grit and tenacity they have demonstrated. Spa 30 in Shelby, co-owned by Loralee Aikins and Jennifer Marsicano, was one of the selected businesses highlighted on SBA’s tour.

“This program is to encourage people to shop local,” said SBA District Director Brent Donnelly. “And from all the places we have visited so far that seems to already be happening.”

Donnelly and SBA Outreach and Marketing Specialist Andy Shirtliff were in Shelby on Tuesday morning, Dec. 15, for a quick visit at Spa 30. Spa 30 was referred to SBA for the tour by the Small Business Development Center.

“The Small Business Development Center gave us referrals and provided funding,” said Donnelly. “There are 10 centers across the state and they are our ‘on the ground’ people. They help small businesses with everything from financing, help with marketing, business plans and more. We wanted one business in every county and they gave us recommendations.”

Aikins and Marsicano worked with Rich Gannon on a business program for Toole County Forward and were one of quite a few locally owned businesses that benefited from the program. 

“We have remodeled the salon part of our business with the funds we received through the Toole County Forward grant,” Aikins shared Tuesday morning. “It allowed us to space the hair stations further apart and add an extra sink. The Toole County Forward program is awesome!”

 The business plan developed with the help of Gannon and the ability to be able to go forward with the plan thanks to funding from Toole County Forward has helped Spa 30 continue to be a viable business, even with stay-at-home mandates and quarantines.

“Toole County Forward quickly jumped in to really aid us and other businesses that struggled initially,” praised Aikins. “We couldn’t be more grateful to those involved and to all of the folks who have really made a point to support us.”

Aikins shared that people in the community have been fantastic in showing their support, which is more important now than ever before. It’s been a tough battle for many small business owners, including Aikins and Marsicano, and without great community support and some additional help through Toole County Forward things would have been a lot tougher.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to really focus on supporting your local businesses to keep them relevant and thriving,” said Aikins. “It’s a tough battle out there right now and many businesses won’t be able to sustain themselves through this pandemic. These businesses are individuals that took a chance on investing themselves within your local community. These small businesses typically are supporting and donating to other organizations within the community and schools. Most of these people are also individuals who are plugged in and active within the community. Support them back and keep that circle going strong.”

The support shown already throughout the past year has been phenomenal, but the battle is far from over. Restrictions and mandates still abound and loyalty to small businesses in the community is essential if they are to remain open. So continue to shop local and show your support to the small business owners in our community. 

Amazon and Wal-Mart don’t support our local schools, sporting events or community endeavors but our local businesses do. 

Be sure and support those who support you and shop local!

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