Shawnee Inn, formerly Eli’s Country Inn, is located near Greenwood, DE and was opened in the 1990s by seven Mennonite sisters. Located in the rural countryside of southern Delaware, the Inn began as a family farm in the 1920’s, evolved into a country inn, and has remained in continuous operation to date.
Today the inn is operated by Diane Eby, a daughter of one of the original sisters. During the beginning stages of COVID-19, the inn, alongside most of the economy, ran into significant financial concern. With lodging establishments forced into limited operations by the State of Emergency, Shawnee Inn was experiencing low occupancy, and Diane knew she needed to pivot in order to keep the business alive. Diane reached out to the SBDC in April 2020, and met with her advisor, Cindy Small, to go over some of her options.
One idea Diane was trying to implement was to obtain FEMA approval to house federal employees. This would boost their occupancy in the short term and create a new revenue stream for their business into the future. However, Diane was having difficulty getting Shawnee Inn listed on the federal FEMA website that promotes available approved lodging to federal employees. In the recent weeks, the Governor of Delaware had added temporary lodging to the list of businesses that must close, so having federal employees stay at her inn was now imperative. It was the only occupancy the inn would see for the near future.
Diane’s SBDC advisor worked with her step by step to make sure there were no technical issues, to make sure all questions on the application had strong responses, and to track down any necessary records. Within a few days, we heard news that the inn had been accepted as an approved location!
In addition, Diane applied for a PPP loan in order to keep staff on site and available since they could stay open under FEMA approval to house federal employees. With SBDC assistance, she was able to secure PPP funding and continue operations at a reduced basis.
Since the inn is open, Diane has begun thinking of other ways she can create additional revenue streams and add to the rural country inn experience. Diane and her advisor, Cindy, discussed a new marketing strategy of Mennonite/Amish culture, selling Mennonite cookbooks, kitchen implements, handmade gifts, and even baked goods.
Diane said of her help from the SBDC: “We are so thankful for this financial relief and assistance during the state of emergency.” Shawnee Inn was able to take advantage of federal relief opportunities and handled the pandemic in true small business fashion – through perseverance and the ability to pivot in the face of uncertainty.