Three small business owners talk about how Lancaster’s Small Business Fund helped them

Paula Wolf, Contributing Writer//August 14, 2020

Three small business owners talk about how Lancaster’s Small Business Fund helped them

Paula Wolf, Contributing Writer//August 14, 2020

A thriving business that emerged out of personal heartache. A successful personal training studio that began as a dream for a boy in Zimbabwe. An expanding unisex barbershop that can trace its roots to a teen’s goal.

These are three of the enterprises that received money for COVID-19 relief from the Lancaster City Small Business Emergency Fund. All told, 143 businesses were approved; 118 earned grants and 25 were issued highly flexible, low-interest loans, for a combined $835,400.

Fifty-seven percent of recipients were women-owned businesses and 50% were businesses owned by people of color.

‘We were scrambling’

Heather and Nathan Kreider’s Makes Scents Natural Spa Line has been in business almost 10 years. Six years ago, they moved the company from First Street to 336 N. Charlotte St.

Makes Scents began as a hobby making soap in their kitchen, and then studio, Heather said. After struggling to start a family, she was looking for a creative release. The business, she said, “came from a place of heartache.”

“I have a passion for the natural health and wellness industry,” said Heather, who is a registered nurse and licensed Pennsylvania esthetician. Her husband, Nathan, is a massage therapist.

Nathan and Heather Kreider at Make Scents, their store on North Charlotte Street in Lancaster. The business obtained a $25,000 loan from the Lancaster City Small Business Emergency Fund, which is helping with normal operating expenses and inventory, Nathan said. PHOTO/ SUSAN L. ANGSTADT

The Kreiders also own Hempfield Botanicals, a subsidiary of the company.

Makes Scents’ lobby has a small retail space, but the bulk of its sales are business to business, to the hotel industry and spas. They have clients all over the U.S., as well as Canada and Europe.

The immediate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown was uncertainty, Heather said.

“We were scrambling just like every else,” she said.

Accounts closed down, and big orders just sat. “It was an extremely scary time,” Heather Kreider said.

Makes Scents, a Certified B Corporation, did get increased sales through Hempfield Botanicals, aided by coupons and discounts, she said.

The company, which has 14-employees, applied for small business relief. It received a Paycheck Protection Program loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

The couple’s $25,000 loan from the Lancaster City Small Business Emergency Fund is helping with normal operating expenses and inventory, Nathan Kreider said.

Before the pandemic, Makes Scents was on track to exceed 2019 sales by 120%, he said.

“We’re getting customers back,” Nathan Kreider said, although it’s going to take a while. “We’re very fortunate.”

‘Very trying time’

Wayne Mutata opened iTrain Studios in Lancaster County in 2012. But his dream of being a personal trainer/bodybuilder began when he was growing up in Harere, the capital city of Zimbabwe. It started when a missionary showed him a photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

When he was 12, he opened his first small business – charging 10 cents to train the neighborhood kids. He saved his money and bought a ticket to America, but when he got to the airport, the teenage Mutata was turned away because he had no idea he needed a visa. “It totally crushed me when I was not allowed to go,” Mutata said.

He eventually came to the U.S. – and Lancaster County – as a Rotary exchange student. After going back to Zimbabwe to finish school, he returned to the United States on a working visa to attend the National Personal Training Institute in Philadelphia.

Now a permanent resident, Mutata, who’s active in the local community, said Lancaster reminds him of his homeland. “I wanted to be in a place where I can see farmland,” he said.

Mutata established iTrain Studios in a self-described rundown garage. “I was a trainer running a business” at that point, he said. The company now operates a site at 315 W. James St., plus a new corporate health and wellness location at 101 N. Queen St.

There’s also an online training platform and a clothing outlet with unique apparel.

Mutata said 98% of his clients at the James Street studio are female. “Most women are consistently givers,” he said. “For one hour, we show these ladies that they’re worth it.” While his father was skeptical of his bodybuilding goal, his mother always supported him, he said.

When COVID-19 hit, it was “a very trying time,” Mutata said. As an African businessman, he didn’t want to let down the community, but he had to close the studio. 

He adapted by renting his equipment to clients,with pricing tiers, and holding classes on Zoom. “We were taking the gym to them,” he said.

Mutata received a $5,000 grant from the Lancaster City Small Business Emergency Fund. He has been able to retain seven of his eight employees, and the one who left moved out of the area, he said. 

When Lancaster County began reopening, iTrain starting holding classes outside. Now its studios are open.

‘I love making people feel happy’

On Oct. 1, 2016, Andre Gonzalez opened his first Vintage Clipper unisex barbershop in New Holland. A year later, a second shop opened in Millersville. And in January 2020, just months before COVID-19 shutdown the state, Gonzalez expanded to a third location at 120 E. Chestnut St. in Lancaster.

The idea took root when he was 13, he said. “I love making people feel happy” through barbering, and having a positive impact on their lives. He apprenticed at The Cutting Edge Barbershop in Lancaster under Amit Corso and worked there for nearly 11 years.

The pandemic closed his shops for 3½ months. A variety of loans, including $10,000 from the Lancaster City Small Business Emergency Fund, helped him and his 15 or so employees stay afloat, Gonzalez said.

The Vintage Clipper, which calls itself “a unique and refined barbershop experience,” reopened June 26 when Lancaster County moved to the green phase.

Gonzalez said they’re following health and safety protocols, which the industry is used to. “We’re taking one person at a time, wiping down everything,” he said.

Not surprisingly, when business resumed, it was brisk. “There were a lot of long hairs,” Gonzalez said.