Covid-19 hit Corri Smith’s business hard.

Black Wednesday is a marketing and public relations firm. Most of Smith’s clients are in the hospitality, food and beverage industries — all suffering under the pandemic restrictions. Those clients were forced to pull back.

Smith said her revenue was “crushed.” She estimated it dropped by about 70%.

Smith submitted an inquiry soon after Wells Fargo & Co.’s PPP portal went live. It was a fully digital process. Smith was glad she submitted her inquiry early because, two days later, customers got a notice saying the bank had closed its site. That was before federal regulators loosened Wells Fargo’s asset restrictions to allow more small-business lending.

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) kept processing applications when the first round ended. Smith applied after weeks of waiting and received conditional approval for 65% of her original request. She signed the promissory note about a week later.

Black Wednesday was approved for a $41,000 PPP loan. It will cover payroll and rent for the firm’s office in the NoDa neighborhood, Smith said.

She spoke of the misconceptions and confusion surrounding the program.

“I feel like everyone is sort of swimming in a pool that we don’t really know what the water is made of,” Smith said. “People are out here thinking it’s free money, and I’m treating it like a loan.”

Smith views it as a better opportunity than she would get with traditional lending. She plans to open a separate payroll account to more easily track loan use.

There are some positives, she said. The firm was able to avoid layoffs. It also shifted its client base to accommodate new industries.

Smith isn’t sure about bouncing back quickly, but she is confident the firm will recover.

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