Small Businesses Overcome Shortages of Power, Water and Cash

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Strategic Funding Source, Inc. operated throughout Hurricane Sandy to maintain support of merchants and small businesses nationwide.

“For the past 6 years Strategic has been there for me when I needed them and I knew I could count on them even in these terrible conditions."

While an anxious region waited in anticipation of what was billed as the “Perfect Storm,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg solemnly told reporters “we can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Heeding those words and looking back to a month ago, thousands of people throughout the region bought batteries, bottled water and food in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. Restaurants, boutiques and salons boarded up their windows and tried to protect their businesses from the onslaught and hoped that they thought of everything. They didn’t know how long the storm would keep their doors shut, nor what the aftermath might bring.
While electric power, water and heat are essential to the operation of most small businesses, nothing is more essential to their survival than cash flow. With doors and windows boarded up and all of their customers seeking shelter from Mother Nature’s wrath, it was certain for many that cash flow would dry up. Businesses in many places, including the southern end of Manhattan, were left without power, customers and cash. Despite the weather conditions, payrolls needed to be met, and bills paid. After all, rent would still be due on the first of the month.

Located in the fashionable, but blacked out SOHO shopping district in Manhattan, Avi Sharifi, the owner of Viatto and Bitar, knew that there wouldn’t be any customers looking to buy his hand made designer Italian shoes for days and possibly weeks. A long time client of Strategic Funding Source, Sharifi realized that he would need capital to remain current in the face of uncertainty and decided to walk the 3 miles to the Strategic offices in Times Square, which luckily remained lit throughout the maelstrom. The rent was due the following day and he had shipments arriving from Italy that required payments to be released by Customs.

As a small business itself, the 40 employees of Strategic were slowly fighting their way in to work as subways and tunnels were flooded, making transit impossible. Avi explained the situation, estimated his cash needs, and within 30 minutes had funds wired into his account. Unbeknownst to Sharifi, the Strategic staff had funded well over $1 million to small businesses remotely from their homes during the height of the hurricane. Many of the company’s merchant clients make small daily payments that require Strategic to manage the cash flowing to their businesses and any interruption to their cash flow could be devastating.

“Small businesses are not like larger corporations,” said David Sederholt, COO of Strategic Funding. “Most don’t operate with large cash reserves, so when disaster hits they have a really difficult time without working capital. We knew early on that our small business clients were relying upon us to keep the cash lifeblood flowing so we created a disaster recovery plan that enabled our entire New York headquarters staff to sustain the operations from home. Our IT consultants, GC Infotech in Stamford, Connecticut built a redundant server infrastructure that enabled us to collect, pay and fund over 3,000 accounts without a single person in the New York office. When customers called in, our Virginia office reassured them and serviced their accounts without skipping a beat.”

Cory Visi, Managing Partner of GC Infotech, pointed out that, “Merchants on the west coast may sympathize that there is a hurricane hitting New York City, but they need to rely on the fact that their deposits will hit their accounts. We built redundant banking systems and sequel servers in NYC, and Colorado, with additional remote back up capability to ensure that Strategic could operate in any disaster situation and they did – right through the entire hurricane.”

When Sandy’s intensity subsided, the Strategic team made their way back to their Times Square headquarters wishing they could restore the power for all those effected in the region, but knowing that they had kept the working capital flowing to their clients to minimize their challenges. Avi Sharifi returned to his boutiques and hosted a candlelight sale with Italian wines to complement the designer shoes. In New York, business continues regardless of the adversity.

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Filippa Noghani
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