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ZEBULON — Businesses in Zebulon are coming together to support each other during the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.
The Zebulon Business Relief Fund seeks to give aid to small, local businesses facing challenges.
“The chamber supports commerce, which means we keep an eye on what’s going on in the business community,” said Denise Nowell, president and CEO of the chamber.
“As these economic challenges began intensifying around COVID-19, we knew we needed to find creative ways to continue to do that work and support our businesses while they were trying to help navigate this pandemic.”
Nowell said she felt it was important for the chamber to give people a way to rally behind small businesses and provide funding to companies.
Donations to the Zebulon Business Relief Fund provide support to small, medium, large and sole-proprietor businesses in the community, Nowell said.
Those donations are coming from many sources.
Olde Raleigh Distillery is supporting the fund through sales of hand sanitizer, according to owner and master blender Brandon McCraney.
“About two months ago, I started volunteering at another distillery because they had such a huge demand for hand sanitizer,” he said. “I posted a picture on social media, and the community started reaching out. I identified that this was a need in Zebulon.”
McCraney can’t make the hand sanitizer at Olde Raleigh Distillery due to extensive renovations. He began looking for a supplier who produced a gel sanitizer that he could stand behind.
“Finding the right supplier is not easy; it’s like the wild, wild west,” McCraney said. He said the federal government regulates hand sanitizer but doesn’t provide much guidance.
McCraney didn’t want to just sell the hand sanitizer to fill a need, though. He wanted to help his neighbors.
“I wanted to have a broad impact among other small businesses,” McCraney said. McCraney said he saw on social media other business owners express frustration in getting relief funds from the state or federal government.
“One business was turned down four times for funding, and they said within 30 days they’d be closed without help,” McCraney said. “The system is broken.”
He sells hand sanitizer online, in a pop-up tent and at the Zebulon market.
“I gravitate toward places where I can help. I want to make a difference and do my part,” McCraney said. “I want to support my neighbors and friends. I think we’ll be stronger in the long run.”
Old Raleigh Distillery plans to begin distilling in August.
Tar River Tees and Graphics is another business helping its neighbors through the Zebulon Business Relief Fund.
With the purchase of a t-shirt, the business allows people to donate $10 to the relief fund or to a business of their choice.
“That’s one of the things that have been really encouraging,” Nowell said. “Tar River Tees launched maybe two months before this all happened.”
Community members have also reached out to donate to the fund.
“That’s one of the things we’ve enjoyed seeing. It’s not only spurred activity from some of the businesses to support each other, but it’s also spurred our community,” Nowell said. “One of the wonderful byproducts has been this sense of comradery and connectedness. We’ve also seen a lot of kindness, which we love about the community.”
Nowell said she hopes people will consider giving.
“There’s a place for everybody to get involved,” Nowell said.