DuBose Printing & Business Services: Finding a New Groove During COVID-19
An African proverb states “If the rhythm of the beat changes, the dance steps must adapt.” This is what many business owners are doing—discovering a different groove. COVID-19 has entrepreneurs bending their businesses in new ways, innovating immensely and bouncing back gracefully. FunTimes is capturing the intimate narratives of COVID-19’s impact on small businesses. Instead of shocking you with statistics, this time, we are telling a human story about evolution, longevity, the tenacity of the human spirit and the different ways all these ideas can manifest. Donna DuBose Miller, the CEO of DuBose Printing & Business Services, depicts how she morphed her business services to survive and share relatable lessons about the art of adaptation.
Donna DuBose Miller and Jacquelynn Miller Abdussabur
For Miller, DuBose Printing & Business Services is not just a vehicle for making income; it is a 27-year-old family business. Her daughter and partner, Jacquelynn Miller Abdussabur, is the Chief Operating Officer (COO). Donna recounts DuBose’s inception: “In 1993, I became the proprietor of DuBose Business Services, a one-person operation at the West Philadelphia Enterprise Center, offering business support services. In the year 2000, with three full time workers, DuBose relocated to its first storefront on Ruskin Road and Haverford Avenue in Overbrook, and became DuBose Printing & Business Services. In 2007, DuBose moved to a larger location at 7592 Haverford Avenue (right off of City Avenue) and hired additional staff. In 2016, we became incorporated.”
Miller shares DuBose’s reach and the ways COVID has impacted the business: “DuBose Printing has been a part of the Overbrook Park community for 13 years. We offer quick customer walk-in services such as faxes, copies, letter writing/typing, email print-outs, as well as a UPS pick-up/drop-off access point and more. We serve clients from all parts of Philadelphia and surrounding areas, including individuals, churches, organizations, funeral homes and others.
We anticipated 2020 to be a good year, as we retain clients who have annual events that require invitations, programs, books and other materials that we provide. There were also other upcoming events we had on the calendar. All of these transactions were canceled due to COVID, which impacted our revenue. In 2018 we became a Union Shop and anticipated producing postcards, door hangers, brochures, etc. for the upcoming 2020 elections. That revenue was also lost.”
As DuBose Printing fights through the changes this pandemic has brought, Miller reveals how the business has adapted its movement: “We had to adjust the manner in which we operate. We are a hands-on family-oriented business; our customers come to us and they become a part of our extended family. It has been difficult to greet customers at the door, have them do a few extra steps to get their tasks done, and at times not being able to offer services like notary or face-to-face meetings.
We are now more online friendly, and encourage customers to utilize digital and application payment methods instead of exchanging cash. In addition, we extend services via text message and even Skype. As an essential business, we worked remotely, and came to the office on a restricted schedule. We were also fortunate to have a staff member volunteer her time to assist in design and print work.
We are not through this experience just yet, but our patrons have been excessively understanding and supportive. Although we hit a financial snag, we do extensive online blasts for our customers so they can keep constant contact. In addition, we encourage more mailers, so their printed items can be received directly in their hands. For our funeral industry, we create a mail-able size heritage keepsake that is accompanied by a thank you. This allows the family to celebrate their loved one’s life with documentation and share with others who could not attend the services.
“We are navigating in the print industry just as everyone else – one inch at a time.”
For Miller, accessing COVID-related grants and funds comes with some challenges. She said, “Finding funding was the easy part. Being approved for it was very difficult. Through our community and state representatives, we were updated on available opportunities. Initially, we applied for many grants and were not awarded any. We received the Payroll Protection Program Grant the second round. Being approved for the PPP loan set forth its own challenges. When we first obtained the loan, there was a lot of confusion from the bank and ourselves. The bank did not notify us right away that we were approved, so the eight weeks window we had to spend the funds, without repayment, was cut short. There were also certain guidelines of the loan we had to follow that changed our business plans.
A tip for applying to grants is to be persistent and follow-up on any application you put in. Once you get the grant/loan, make sure you follow the guideline and keep good records of everything you spend so there are no questions as to how you spent the funds, and so you don’t have to pay it back. If you receive a significant award amount, it’s not a bad idea to open a new account for the awarded funds to keep better track of your spending. (PULL-OUT)
Being a small business, we are overlooked, and through this process, we learned that although grants and loans may become available, we are not always the first to know. “
After COVID, digital transactions will play a big role in their business. Miller tells us that “The future of our business post COVID is going to be ecommerce. Our plan is to update our existing website, complete our phone app and have more samples displayed online so customers can really see our offerings. We will still encourage face-to-face meetings but with more safety precautions in place, because, after all, DuBose Printing was built on that one-on-one personal touch services that made us who we are today– 27 years and still going.”
Miller appreciates referrals for DuBose Printing, and invites everyone to connect with them on social media at @DuBosePrinting on Instagram. In addition, they are accepting orders via email at [email protected], over the phone at 215-877-9071 and in person on 7592 Haverford Avenue. She assures the public that they are still accomplishing their mission: ”We are still here to provide quality desktop publishing, graphic design and print work for individuals, churches, organizations and businesses.”
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at www.asieduasimprint.blog, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.