One Stop Grad

Nomination from James Finn

I feel like our children were cheated out of milestones due to Covid. I can’t image being a senior and having no prom or real graduation. When we found One Stop Grad we were excited to offer some type of experience to our so.

Their professionalism and understanding during this difficult time was appreciated. We look forward to better days but are thankful for One Stop Grad for turning a negative into a positive!

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

When I first heard the news on March 14th. 2020 that all schools would be closing due to COVID, I froze. My first thought was how would I pay my 6 employees? I knew that I would have to break the news to them that Monday that they would be furloughed, and I did not have a return date in mind. For at least the next month I was glued to the news just waiting for any type of program that the state or government would make available which would allow us to re-open.

Finally the PPP program and the EIDL loans were announced and with that I started to lay out a plan for our company’s rebirth. I knew for certain that we could not go back to the same way of business and that many schools would want to cancel their existing contracts for Graduation products. That being the case I decided to get a commitment from as many customers as possible to follow through with the graduations and to do a virtual ceremony or to get the products as mementos to mark the occasion. Some were skeptical but I managed to convince 60% to complete their orders.

Because our company offers discounted packaging to underserved communities throughout NJ & NY, I knew how important this milestone was to the students and their families and it needed to be celebrated. Although we finished the 2020 graduation season with a 40% decline, we were able to survive and to retain 5 employees.

When the planning began for the 2020/2021 school season, I knew we would need to reinvent ourselves. In July of 2020 with some EIDL money still at my disposal I began to lay the groundwork for OSG studio, which would be our 2,200 sq ft, 4 station full service studio to be housed within our 10,000 sq ft. warehouse in Mountainside, NJ.

We would also need a new website that could show who we are and what we have to offer, including the ability to have students book their own portrait session and to prepay for their graduation items. On October 1, 2020 we launched OSG Studio. We stepped out on faith, built it and they came.

The response and out pouring from our customers throughout Newark, East Orange and Paterson, NJ was heartwarming and gave us the cash flow we needed to survive. The customers in the surrounding communities were over-joyed that they had somewhere to take graduation pictures and they could also touch and feel the other products which they would be purchasing like senior spirit wear. We produce everything there in our 10,000 sq ft facility and offering the parents the ability to see that the products were being made by a local black-owned business was even more gratifying to them.

The ability to have the parents and students pay us directly on our premises or online through our website, dramatically increased the up sale on additional products. We also brought on several new customers due to word of mouth spreading about the studio and the quality products and value pricing that we offered. Although we had a decrease in revenue in 2020, we are on target to do 47% more in gross sales over our 2019 numbers. Our YTD revenue is already 70% of our total 2019 gross revenue. And with students returning to the classroom this season, I expect us to close the year out strong. We recently received additional funds on our EIDL loan, which will allow us to hire another 2-3 employees so that we can serve even more schools this season.

We closed out June by signing 2 of the largest schools in Paterson, NJ which is a potential 25% of our targeted increase in revenue for 2021. We are very proud of our success and our ability to pivot.

The change in business model has allowed us to strive during this very challenging 16 months. We believe that the addition of the studio in conjunction with online sales direct from students allows our business to truly be recession proof.

Bovella’s Pasty Shop

Business has multiple locations
Nomination from Councilwoman Andre

Bovella’s Pastry Shop is a Community Champion- This hardworking pastry shop suffered major losses and made hard decisions in efforts to stay open.

They had to furlough staff and increase their own hours to stay afloat. While they were sacrificing making cuts to their budget they were selflessly making donations to frontline workers.

I know that most of their loyal customers would agree with me that they are deserving of this recognition.

Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story

In the beginning of COVID-19, there were a variety of changes that came our way. Unfortunately, we had to let go of many of our beloved staff members.

Our staff was reduced from around 80 employees to solely 8 people operating the business. In addition, the amount of product we produced had immensely shifted, leaving us to tackle newfound financial obstacles. Throughout it all, one of our biggest worries was not being able to serve our loyal customers, who’ve been walking through our doors for years. In the midst of all of those difficulties, we strived to continue to support our community and found new ways to keep the business afloat. We tapped into different creative endeavors, including “at-home” projects and kits that allowed customers to personalize cookies, cupcakes, and even cakes to their liking!

In addition, we made our products more accessible through our delivery services, and curbside pick-up. It was of utmost importance to support our community through “Go-Fund Me” campaigns with the purpose to raise money to feed our courageous frontline workers. Other ideas included, purchasing shirts, meal plans, and hospital donations. It was a tough year; however we always focused on staying positive and most importantly being grateful for our many blessings, including our wonderful customers.