Kuster talks small business recovery challenges with Concord jewelry store owner 

  • Concord business owner Molly Brandt (left) talks with U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (right) inside Beadorable, Brandt's South Main Street store on October 18, 2021. Cassidy Jensen—Monitor staff

  • Concord business owner Molly Brandt (left) talks with U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (right) inside Beadorable, Brandt's South Main Street store on October 18, 2021. Cassidy Jensen—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/18/2021 4:45:51 PM

Last November, Molly Brandt was trying to figure the next steps for her jewelry store after COVID forced her to rethink her business model. 

It was right before Thanksgiving when her friend Lizzie dropped a bomb. “The bad news is I have breast cancer; the good news is, I want you to create a bracelet to support me,” Brandt recounted.

Now an online spin-off of Brandt’s business is dedicated to designing hand-crafted jewelry for those collectively grieving the death of a loved one or supporting someone through an illness.

Brandt is the owner of Beadorable at 30 South Main Street. On Monday, she met with U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster for a conversation about challenges facing New Hampshire small businesses during the pandemic, from supply chain delays to workforce issues and the continued impact of the virus as cases climb again. 

After interviewing her friend last year, Brandt created a personalized bracelet that she sold to more than 200 friends and family members. It was a way for Lizzie’s community to demonstrate their support as she started treatment in January 2021 during yet another nationwide surge of COVID-19.

Now Brandt has created similar bracelets under a new brand called Good Vibes. 

“I think what I'm recognizing is that there's a lot of people who need sort of comfort and care,” Brandt said. “When you have somebody going through these tricky times, you don't want to interrupt them. You don't know how to support them. But by just putting this piece of jewelry on, you’re energetically sending them love, sending them care and you’re wearing a piece of them.”

When the pandemic began closing down events in 2020, Brandt knew the jewelry business she has owned for 18 years was in trouble. She attended more than 60 craft shows a year, where she sold her hand-made jewelry. She watched as show after show was canceled and worried about paying her bills and mortgage.

Much like restaurants that shifted to delivery or created outdoor dining areas, she pivoted to a new model. Now she sells more than 50 percent of her products online. 

Loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and participating in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program last fall helped her stay afloat. The conversation with Kuster was organized by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices, which is connecting small business owners with elected officials across the country to talk about their challenges amid economic recovery.

Kuster said Monday that she has heard from other New Hampshire business owners who have started selling products online, including Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Franconia Notch. “This has been the hardest of times and then it's also been opening opportunity,” she said. From well-loved businesses thriving despite the uncertainty to decreasing child hunger, there have been some upsides to the past 18 months.

“The economy is humming along,” Kuster said. “The irony to the whole thing right now is that the problems we're having is because the demand has surged in the economy.” Low unemployment, along with decreased immigration and a mental health and substance abuse crisis, have contributed to businesses’ staffing woes, she said. 

Then there’s the supply chain disruptions: delivery delays from the U.S. Postal Service made holiday shipping difficult last year, and it’s something Brandt worries about as she looks ahead to this Christmas season. 

“People were super supportive last year. I don't think they'll be supportive this year, shipping everything and having it be a week or two weeks late,” she said. 

Brandt hopes that the problems facing small businesses remain in the public conversation, even as the economy recovers and the worst effects of COVID subside. 

“We’re still moving through this, so keep supporting local, keep donating,” she said.“We were good people back then,” Brandt joked.

"Let’s see if we can’t hold onto that,” Kuster said. 

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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