Chicago childcare provider questions if she can survive COVID

Kejuana Isom

From stay-at-home orders and being denied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to testing positive for COVID-19, the past few months have not been easy for Chicago business owner Kejuana Isom. 

But, this is not the first time Kejuana has felt uncertain about her future. Four years ago, she was laid off from her job, and after 20 years at the same company, she didn’t know where to start looking for a new position. The market had changed drastically since the beginning of her career and she had a hard time finding a new position. So, instead of re-entering the workplace, she decided to follow a different passion—her love for children. 

In 2017, Kejuana opened Keke’s Love Is Care to neighborhood kids, providing a much-needed daycare service for working moms and dads. Kejuana says her business got off with a slow start, but for the past two years, her business had been going strong with six clients bringing their kids to her daily.

Then, in early March, Kejuana tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to shut down her business and self-isolate. When she recovered, the state was in lockdown.

By April, she was allowed to re-open for business, but as Kejuana explains, “Once I was able to open up, my clientele was basically gone. They were working from home, so they didn’t need my services.”

Kejuana is currently watching over twins for one client, but she is fearful that the rest of her clients won’t come back as some have lost their jobs and even decided to move due to the pandemic. 

She says, “It was disheartening not to see my clients come back. I know why my parents couldn’t bring their kids. But, I still have my rent and utilities to pay.”

Kejuana applied for a PPP loan but was denied due to her credit score, and she has had to rely on her friends, family and personal savings to pay her overhead costs. But, capital isn’t the only resource that small business owners like her need right now. Kejuana wants to make sure she is keeping her kids and her clients safe; however, she feels there is a lack of reliable resources available on how to do this during the pandemic. 

As Kejuana says, “We are in uncharted water.” There needs to be more resources available to small business owners to not only fund their businesses, but also to do safe business. 

But, despite the uncertainty, Kejuana is staying positive. She hopes things will start to go back to normal at least a little bit so that there is a market again for her services. 

Kejuana advises her fellow small business owners, “There is no blueprint on this. We are all just trying our best to keep afloat. Try all avenues that are open. Apply for everything because you don’t know what will come through for you. And, when you do get information, spread the word.”

Small Business Majority is sharing stories like Kejuana’s to educate policymakers about what small business owners need in order to survive this crisis. Help us spread the word that policymakers need to do more to support business owners in order for our economy to recover by signing our letter

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