In a Chicago Treasurer's Office webcast from October 6, 2020, McKinley Park neighborhood caterer Nicole Jordan discusses how Chicago's business resiliency loan helped her small business weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

McKinley Park Caterer Retools During Pandemic with Small Business Support from City

Published November 20, 2020

The Nicole Jordan Catering Company, a McKinley Park neighborhood small business located at 3931 S. Leavitt St., Chicago, shared how City of Chicago programs provided critical financial and professional assistance after its business dried up at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owner Nicole Jordan spoke of the challenges her company faced — and the critical help she received — in the first small business web series presented by the Chicago Treasurer's Office.

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"We were doing pretty well, pre-pandemic," Jordan said. However, a trickle of customer postponements starting in February 2020 soon turned into "an avalanche" of cancellations. 

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"Everything on our books was pretty much canceled until summer," Jordan said. On March 13, she was forced to send all staff home and shut down operations.

A zero-interest loan from the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund, a pandemic initiative funded by the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund from the Chicago Treasurer's Office, helped the business to stay afloat, Jordan said. She spoke to this in the first small business web series presented by Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin.

The Chicago Small Business Web Series features McKinley Park caterer Nicole Jordan in its first episode.

"We launched this series to really focus on small business owners who have benefited from the Chicago Community Catalyst Fund," Conyears-Ervin said. The fund has focused on enabling local businesses to retain employees and maintain operations, she said.

Pandemic Pivot

In the web interview, Jordan spoke to how the pandemic forced her to not only seek help to cover immediate needs like rent and insurance payments, but also inspired fundamental changes to her business model and direction. A shelved service for home meal delivery found new life in the era of the pandemic, and business grants, loans and pro-bono professional assistance allowed her to rework her business to still provide food services to the community, Jordan said.

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Because the Chicago business resiliency loan relieved the immediate panic of pandemic-inspired revenue loss, Jordan was able to retool her business for the future. "It gave me an opportunity to pause and think more strategically," she said.

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A background in professional consulting helped immensely, she said, as well as getting completely organized with application materials and constantly researching support opportunities. "I made a full-time job out of webinars and applying," she said.

Now, a new service line and brand for home meal delivery will be an integral part of her business, Jordan said. Post-pandemic, the demand for home meal delivery "is definitely not going away," she said.

"All of this came about through the benefits of applying to the resiliency fund," Jordan said.

Forced to Move

Jordan said the meal delivery service has been unfortunately delayed until after the New Year because she's being forced to move: The Central Manufacturing District building in which her and other small food service businesses sublet space has been sold to an out-of-state developer who has demanded all current tenants vacate by the end of the year, Jordan said.

She's found a temporary future home outside the neighborhood, renting space from another catering company. However, "my desire is to come back to McKinley Park," Jordan said. "I'd like to find property that I'd be able to purchase."

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Jordan is still running her catering business in McKinley Park until forced to move, and she's continuing her program of twice-monthly Sunday dinners that can be picked up or delivered in McKinley Park. The next two dinners are scheduled for Sunday, December 6, and Sunday, December 20, and anyone who's interested can sign up via the "Subscribe for Updates" feature on the Nicole Jordan Catering website, she said.

City of Chicago Support

The Chicago Community Catalyst Fund was established by the City Treasurer’s Office to help small businesses deal with the impact of COVID-19 by investing up to $50 million into the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Loan Fund. To receive a zero-interest loan, a business had to demonstrate at least a 25 percent revenue drop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and have fewer than 50 employees.  Eligible business owners received up to $50,000 over six months to cover up to 50 percent of their payroll and additional expenses.

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Conyears-Ervin encouraged local small businesses to continue to pursue the many support opportunities across municipal, county, state and federal programs, and recommended signing up to the email alert service the Chicago Treasurer's Office provides to help connect enterprises to resources and funding opportunities. The ongoing web series will highlight small business funding success stories and share the experience of local entrepreneurs who receive them.

“As an advocate for small businesses that are providing much-needed resources to our local communities, making this investment available was a priority for my office,” Conyears-Ervin said.  “These small businesses invest in the communities they serve, so it’s only fitting that we help them during a difficult time with the necessary resources."

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