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Cellular retailer turns to Florida SBDC at FIU to develop a ‘new normal’ strategy

UNICOMM Paging & Cellular, considered an essential business, wasn’t ordered to close amid the coronavirus pandemic. But it may as well have, as stay-at-home orders kept customers away and sales plummeted?

“Our company is brick and mortar retail, and we depend on door swings,” said Sam Brejt, CEO of UNICOMM. “Sales were down 80 percent and costs went up tremendously. We were in negative territory all around.”

Will UNICOMM be able to fully recover from the COVID-19 crisis? Brejt ventures that only time, and a solid business plan, will tell.

Guided by consultants at Florida SBDC at FIU Business (FSBDC), the small business development center at FIU’s College of Business, UNICOMM was approved for a Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan, which provides up to $50,000 in loans to small businesses impacted by the pandemic, as well as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), forgivable loans to cover payroll.

As of June 2, 2020, the FSBC at FIU Business has helped local businesses obtain $24.1 million in COVID-19 assistance.

Alongside access to financial assistance, FSBDC consultants provided Brejt and the UNICOMM team hands-on guidance to develop new business and economic plans as well as advice on how to fill the gaps of a new structure and workflow that is unexpected due to current pandemic and now dealing with store closures plus looting and vandalism.

“We have an uncharted road that we must navigate to survive in this new retail environment,” said Brejt. “The staff at the Florida SBDC FIU are key to helping us navigate this road from accounting to staffing.”

One of the first steps that has already begun is to reorganize the company’s accounting process, adding a new line item: environmental protection. This will cover gloves, masks and shields for employees as well as hand sanitizer, daily cleaning supplies and deep cleaning inside Unicomm stores to keep employees and shoppers safe. Brejt pointed out that the majority of these items have inflated costs and weren’t part of the company’s business plan.

What’s next for UNICOMM?

“Continue the path of the new normal,” said Brejt. “Now, with the guidance of the FSBDC, that path is clear, and their team will be with us at every turn with solid advice and assistance.”

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