At The Lemon Lily Tea Room & Bakery, African American business owner, Elizabeth M Franks, prides herself on creating beautiful memories and restorative experiences for her guests. After owning her Oviedo-based tea room for six years, Franks learned that taking time for tea allows guests to share quality moments with the people they cherish most. 

This motto resonates with her customers as well. In fact, The Lemon Lily Tea Room & Bakery book parties of 20 or more guests every weekend. Friends and family gather to enjoy afternoon tea while expecting brides host a quintessential tea party for their bridal shower or luncheon.

When COVID-19 restricted social gatherings, Franks and her staff faced three problems: depletion of cash reserves, supply chain disruption, and even business closure. “We could not serve the volume we needed to break even and we had to cut back on our staff,” explains Franks.

However, despite the problems Franks faced, her team continued to help their community. “We really value our community. During the government shutdown, we offered free food to federal employees and their families,” she went on to say. 

Black-owned small businesses and black families have suffered the most financially through the coronavirus pandemic. While U.S. unemployment levels fell, it rose for black workers who fill positions in the hardest-hit industries from food and service to child care, warehousing, and public transit.

According to economists, black unemployment is historically double that of white workers, and blacks are typically the first ones fired and the last ones hired during an economic downturn or recession.

Further compounding the issue for black business owners is the fact that many of them have been shut out of receiving federal aid. When the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) rolled out in early Spring, only 12% of black and Hispanic business owners who applied for loans received it, according to a study conducted by equal rights organizations Color of Change and UnidosUS. Nearly half of the 500 business owners interviewed for the survey anticipate having to close their businesses permanently.

Franks was thrilled to hear about the PPP loan under the CARES Act. The loan, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), would allow Franks to pay her employees who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. When the SBA directed her to BBIF Florida, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that has a mission to develop and promote underserved, black and minority-owned business enterprises through education, training, loans, investments, and other activities, she knew she was in good hands. 

Since a major part of BBIF’s mission is to aggressively promote an atmosphere conducive to the development of underserved, black and minority-owned businesses, Franks knew BBIF would be genuinely attentive and concerned about her staying in business. The BBIF team attended to all of Franks’ questions and helped her secure a PPP loan. She was able to keep her employees on payroll for the months to come. 

 “I appreciate BBIF’s ardent efforts to work hard and secure loans for businesses like mine. BBIF has been a huge help to my team and I, we appreciate it.” – Elizabeth M Franks, CEO of The Lemon Lily Tea Room & Bakery


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