COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

Success Stories

Following a successful career working for nonprofits where Lisa Ditchkoff did case management work, coordinated events and fundraising, she embraced the idea of starting her own event planning business and hoped to one day to own her own unique venue. While Lisa dreamed big, she knew she would need to start small. She began by starting a small event planning business in 2003, operating out of her home for the first year while she built her clientele. In 2008, Lisa drove by the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Opelika, Alabama and saw a “for sale” sign. Lisa recalled, “I really wasn’t necessarily ready for the challenges that lay ahead, but I walked in there – and all I could see was people everywhere.”

In midst of the 2008 economic downturn, the odds were against her as she tried securing refinancing to renovate the dilapidated building. She recalled having her loan applications rejected several times, but she persisted, and a lender finally agreed if she was able... Read More

Alice Lessmann and her spouse started their company, Signalink, in 2005 and in 2016, she became the CEO of the company. As the company continued to grow, she realized she needed some additional help, resources, and ultimately discovered the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Center, the Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship (the Catalyst Center), located in Huntsville, Alabama. She started out by attending their free classes, and then started working closely with one of their counselors, Leigh Christian.

Leigh Christin, a founder of the Catalyst Center and Tech Rich 7(j) Project Manager, assisted Alice and Signalink through the beginning stages of government contracting. The company became a certified woman-owned, veteran-owned, and minority owned small-disadvantaged business for government contracting purposes. Leigh stated that since Alice became CEO, the company has obtained several large contracts and continues to grow. She has hired a... Read More


The establishment of OH! Hair Design Studio was the fulfillment of a dream come true for Anita Watkins. From an early age she had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, because she wanted to leave a lasting a legacy as well as fulfill her purpose. Her dreams of becoming a hair stylist became a reality in 2005, she worked in a hair salon and as a traveling stylist, willing to go where duty called to meet her client’s needs.

In 2016 OH! Hair Design Studio was established and began to thrive. Word of mouth marketing brought in clients from both near and far, and Anita was living her dream, and then something drastic happened that no small business owner, especially a service provider was prepared for.


In March 2020 COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, and in Alabama, non-essential businesses were mandated to close. As with many small business owners, worry and fear was looming around and hopes of... Read More


Rhonda Allen started as a Marketing Director for a Physical Therapist, when one day she was presented with an opportunity that completely changed the trajectory of her career. Because of her hard work, dedication, and a knack for management, she was offered the opportunity to purchase the existing physical therapy business from the owner. She jumped at the opportunity, changed the name, and Premier Physical Therapy was born in 2011. From its beginning the business has thrived and has overcome many obstacles, but nothing quite like COVID-19.

On March 13, 2020 COVID-19 was declared a national disaster, and shortly thereafter non-essential businesses in the State of Alabama were mandated to close. As an essential business, Premier Physical Therapy remained open, however, COVID-19 caused a major reduction in the patients they serviced. The number of doctor referrals they received was drastically reduced because elective procedures were no longer being... Read More