FIRST ON FOX: Small business owners in central Virginia have blasted America’s rising inflation and economic conditions, warning they are expecting a “big deal” this holiday season with retail issues and commodity prices continuing to rise.
Robin Litz and her husband, Shawn, along with their daughter, Tara Birely, own a small business called Kissed Cupcakes in Forest, Virginia. The trio sat down for a recent interview with FOX Business where they shared their concerns about the US economy and how inflation, which is at a 40-year high, and high oil prices have taken a toll on their 11-year-old small business.
Shawn told FOX Business that the net worth of his family business, which was started in 2011, “has gone up anywhere between 30 and 35 percent” and said he would have started his own “business” if it hadn’t been. forced to raise their prices “perhaps 10 to 15 percent.”
“For example, a year and a half ago, I was paying $2 a pound for butter,” Shawn said. “… $3.75 a pound now. Eggs, [we were] buy 60 eggs for $3.50, now it’s $10.”
“So the butter, the sugar, the flour, it’s all up,” he continued. “I would say it’s much higher than 30 to 35 percent.”
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Robin said that he believes that “the increase in gas prices has caused the inflation” of their goods, Tara noted that even things that are used every day such as containers have increased in price, “not even the materials.”
“And everything has gone up more in the last nine months than in the 10 years we’ve been in business,” Shawn added, saying he was “going to four or five stores” when he visited. one.
“And at one point we couldn’t find powdered sugar anywhere,” said Robin. “We finally got it through Sam’s Club, and it was supposed to be shipped from Houston, Texas, to Lynchburg, Virginia. It was nowhere to be found.”
Shawn said until they found powdered sugar at Sam’s Club, their business depended on Walmart’s two-pound small bags of confectionary.
Robin said one of his “concerns” was the lack of holidays, which he predicts will increase this year.
Asked what advice he would give as a small business owner to the Biden administration and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, Shawn said, “It’s just a joke. The middle class. I don’t think they have the ear of the average person.”
“In this country there are also such divisions,” he added. “It’s making more of this.”
“I don’t want to go to DC and want them to come here, I want you to come to our shop. I want you to see what’s going on here,” said Robin. “I want you to see how we’re struggling, how we can’t get paid, how we’ve lost customers, how employee quality has gone up in the last few years.”
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When asked what they thought of politicians like President Biden who jumped the gun to say the economy was improving, Robin and Shawn said, “The economy is not back.”
“I don’t agree with that. I don’t care if they go on there and say inflation is down to 0% or 0% or what have you. It’s still there. Nothing has changed. I’m still paying the same prices I was.” “I paid for everything,” Shawn said.
Later in the interview, Tara expressed concern about small businesses being taken for granted and contrasted them with corporate America, saying that small businesses are the “backbone” of America and that they really care about their customers.
“When you work in small business, we care about people,” Tara said. “We don’t just think about what comes out of the door, the money that we make. We care about the people who work for us and when you lose, when you lose that connection, that’s what I think we’re missing now and if you have these small businesses that close and lose that family, what does the world what will it be like?”
While inflation, internet problems, and rising gas prices have affected their small business over the past year and a half, they faced many challenges before the pandemic. Less than two weeks after moving into the mall in March 2020, many of the weddings and birthday parties they were planning were canceled due to state and national blackouts.
“We had to evolve into something new,” Robin said. “People couldn’t find bread on the bakery shelves, so we started baking bread because that’s what customers needed. This is what they want. We were able to be comfortable because we were a food company, so we did a lot of roadside pickups. . We sent the goods. We pulled out a food trailer.”
Despite having take-out and curbside pickup, Robin said Kissed Cupcakes’ sales “have been down for a while,” forcing them to lay off their staff. He then said that he applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, but was unsuccessful in the first round and when he received his check after the second round he found out that it would not cover a single payment. It was about $8,800.
Robin said Kissed Cupcakes wasn’t the only small business in the area struggling, adding that he knew several small business owners and “many of them had to close” because they couldn’t get PPP funding.
“The problem was when all the restrictions were removed and you could hire people. You could open up. You could also be active. Nobody wanted to work,” said Robin. He said the minimum wage in Virginia “jumped so much” that they “can’t keep up with 160 hours a week.”
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Local media reports around Kissed Cupcakes indicate that several small business owners are facing the same obstacles as the Litz family. Burt Taylor, owner of Badger On Main, a Lynchburg restaurant and bar, told local media this summer that he has seen a 20% to 23% increase in product prices.
“You have to find a lot of ways to cut costs. I mean, you can change your prices on food to a certain extent, like if you can’t charge, you know, I’m not going to charge you 80 dollars for 20 chicken wings, I’m not going to do that, I have to be flexible,” Taylor said.