NECO - Nipissing East Community Opportunities - is a non-profit organization that offers loans to start-ups, expanding businesses and others that wouldn't typically qualify for loans at your mainstream bank. They are funded through FedNor.
Now, due to the COVID19 situation's swift and vast impact, NECO has adapted what they're doing, says Executive Director Denise Sherritt.
"First and foremost, our staff (of four team members) is working from home, we're fully operational from our homes and we've quickly created virtual offices," she explains.
As well, they want businesses to know all programs are still available, adding, "The office may be closed, but you can still talk with us about accessing all of our programs. The best way is to call our main office line and it will either be forwarded to our homes, or you can leave a message and we strive to get back to you within one business day."
Other changes are being implemented as well.
"For existing clients who have received loans, payments have been deferred for six months. That will be re-evaluated and could be extended as we move forward," says Sherritt.
For new clients seeking help due to COVI-19, they're also made changes to what they do and how they do it.
"For entrepreneurs seeking new loans, we have a simple four-page application. They don't have to submit a business plan. Applicants just have to tell us what their need is, how they've been affected by COVID19, and how the funds will help them survive this," she explains.
She says the funds could help in a variety of ways including "new, equipment, operating costs, inventory, or even marketing."
As well, Sherritt explains that new loans will come with zero percent interest until September, and other measures may be added as well.
Sherritt says what gives her hope for the future is what she's learned to expect from entrepreneurs, adding, "It's resilience. Entrepreneurs are resilient. They have a desire to keep going, to work hard. They don't let a bump in the road stop them, they find a way to go around it, or to go over it."
Since NECO's office - in the Kennedy Building on McIntyre Street - is closed, Sherritt says the best way to reach out quickly is to call their main office line at 705-476-8822, and the caller will either be forwarded directly to one of their staff working from home or have the opportunity to leave a voicemail, which they try to reply to within 24 hours, or a single business day.