During a global pandemic--or any difficult period--it's important for small businesses owners to form a community. That's what Bart Jordan, the founder and president of Dorado Graphix thinks. "We're all in this together," says Jordan, adding that entrepreneurs also need to stay positive: "If you're not optimistic, you shouldn't be in business for yourself." 

It's a good attitude to have, especially in light of the tough times Jordan's Jacksonville, Florida-based business--which sells wide-format printers--is having. Dorado Graphix took out a $300,000 Small Business Administration loan last year to build a new showroom for its printers, which are typically used to create banners and other signage. But foot traffic to the showroom stopped when Florida began shutting down in early March. And with trade shows also off the table, five-year-old Dorado went from having its best month on record in February--breaking $90,000 in sales--to falling well short of its April sales goals, bringing in only about $30,000.

Jordan recently took out a $35,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan to pay the rent and his six employees. With his business stabilized, he began to look for ways to help his community. He found one a month ago when businesses in Jacksonville began to turn the lights back on.

"We started to notice in our neighborhood and community that as people were starting to open back up, there wasn't a ton of signage," Jordan says. "They weren't getting the attention or foot traffic they needed." He figured that to draw in customers, businesses were going to need bigger signs. Luckily he had just the right tools for the job--the wide-format printers sitting idle on the brand-new showroom floor.

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Jordan posted ads on Nextdoor and Facebook, and began going door-to-door in Jacksonville offering free signage. As business owners started accepting, the Dorado staff--plus Jordan's 88-year-old mother--got to work making 18" x 24" peel-and-stick signs for walls and windows, as well as 42" x 36" vinyl banners that can be hung from trees, buildings, and rooftops. Dorado Graphix donated the inks necessary for printing the signs, and got Canon, the printers' manufacturer, to donate the signage stock.

So far, more than 50 businesses have taken Jordan up on his offer, which he doesn't expect will result in any monetary reward for Dorado. "It's not really marketing because the people we are helping will never be customers," he says.

Meanwhile, Jordan is also working on ways to bring in revenue for Dorado by expanding and diversifying the business's printer inventory and products. His plans include selling machinery that can print advertorial car wraps, producing software that optimizes workflows for printers, and doing decal printing for the election this year.

It's a tough time to be an optimist, but that hasn't stopped Jordan yet: "I think we're going to be okay," he says, adding again that when small businesses are strong, the whole community benefits. "We all have to help each other out."