Success Story: Arkansas –

Arkansas Destinations owner Jana Cohen can point to the exact day the coronavirus pandemic disrupted her business.

“On March 12 all bookings for bus tours, events, and incoming travel cancelled or postponed. That was the last day we ran a trip,” said Cohen.

“Overnight, half of our business disappeared, and we had customers asking for money back from deposits they had made.”Eileen Devereux Dailey of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center advised Cohen as she applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL. Click To Tweet

In business since 2000, Cohen’s Little Rock-based company offers tours and event planning, primarily for convention groups. She also operates a fleet of mini buses, trolleys, motor coaches, and vans.

“Our signature trolley buses have been used all over Little Rock for many years,” said Cohen.

“Our customers are often convention groups, corporate travelers, and groups who like to travel to places like Oaklawn and Crystal Bridges. We are trying to keep our fleet maintained and available for all that when business picks up.”

The company also operates shuttles at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, a service that continues.

“We still have the half of our business that is the daily shuttling for employees at UAMS. Because of PPP, we are able to pay employees who are on the front line driving at the main COVID-19 treatment center in Arkansas,” she said. “The EIDL helped (us) make payroll before we received the PPP money.”

Eileen Devereux Dailey of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center advised Cohen as she applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL.

Cohen received the maximum EIDL Advance from the Small Business Administration, along with a PPP loan from Simmons Bank.

She applied for EIDL in March, before PPP existed. After Congress passed the CARES Act in April to fund the Paycheck Protection Program, SBA announced disaster loan applicants could get an advance amount, which could be combined with PPP and would not have to be repaid.

“Eileen has been most helpful and answers all of my questions almost immediately. If she doesn’t know the answer, she knows where to find it,” said Cohen, who also turned to ASBTDC in 2009 for help obtaining a small loan during the economic downturn.

Arkansas Destinations weathered the 2009 recession, and Cohen is positioning her company to ride out the pandemic.

“We still do professional event planning, but at this time most events are on hold, postponed, or cancelled,” she said. “The PPP money has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate and make sure our business model fits with whatever is the new normal.”

For more about Arkansas Destinations, visit ardestinations.com, and for more about the Arkansas SBTDC, visit asbtdc.org. To find your nearest SBDC, click here.