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Small Local Business Finds Certainty In Community During These Uncertain Times

Hannah Bullard

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the U.S. economy will not make a full recovery until 2029. And a west Kentucky business is finding certainty through community support. 

Julie-Anna Carlisle owns Milkweed, a natural wellness shop in Hopkinsville. She says her business did not qualify for federal loans. She was also unsuccessful in applying for the U.S. chamber’s “Save Small Business” grant.

“I knew I wasn't going to qualify for any of the loans that were out there because we weren't going to be able to keep our employees on payroll,” Carlisle said. “ I did try to apply for some grants. You know, I'm like sitting there, you know, like at two o'clock ready to just like, pound on it, but everybody else is on it.”

Carlisle considers herself to be amongst the “lucky ones.” She said many businesses in her town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky have had to close their doors, but Milkweed’s remain open thanks to her community of customers which she refers to as a second family. 

“I've always wanted a business. I grew up a grease monkey at a gas station. I fell in love with the place. I liked what was happening. It was like this second family you know, you knew everybody and in this little rural area it was pretty magical for a young kid,” Carlisle said. 

Michelle Rodriguez is a regular at Milkweed, and one of the customers Carlisle attributes her business’ pandemic survival to. Rodriguez said she feels small businesses, such as Milkweed, serve the purpose of bringing together like-minded people in a community. She built on Carlisle’s notion of small businesses having the capacity to create a family. 

Credit Hannah Bullard / WKMS
Julie-Anna Carlisle (left) Michelle Rodriguez (right)

“This store in particular, has really just allowed a lot of like-minded thinkers to be able to come together, whether she's holding classes, or inviting people to come in and sample teas and things like that. It's just this story in particular is kind of a hub for so many people to be able to just come together and connect,” Rodriguez said. “And I think right now that is the most important thing, right? I mean, especially with the way things are going. Just being able to connect with another human being.”

Carlisle said if not for customers like Rodriguez, she likely would have not been able to reopen her doors and pay the bills. 

“It was really tough. It was tough for all small businesses. But we were fortunate enough that because we have been here for five years, we have created that external family community base. And our local community shoppers kept our doors open and helped us pay our bills,” Carlisle said. “We had some people who they ordered, one lady ordered five times, and I know this lady and I know it was just because she was really adamant about trying to help support our business.”

Carlisle said although the complete economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is uncertain, she finds certainty in her and Milkweed family’s resilience.



Credit Hannah Bullard / WKMS
Inside Milkweed Health and Harmony

“When I first opened milkweed, I wasn't going to have the funding that I thought I was gonna have. I had $7,000 in a checking account and a $10,000 credit card, and that's how Milkweed started,” Carlisle said. “I've had an in-house bookkeeper who embezzled money from us, and we just about lost it. I mean, we came so close to losing this place. I survived that, we've hung in there, and thanks to our local supporters, thanks to our extended family we are here. And I guarantee you as long as I want to be here, and as long as I have breath about it.”

Carlisle is operating Milkweed on her own with reduced store hours. She says the store is currently carrying less merchandise and is using the extra space as a platform for local artists to sell their work. 


Hannah is a Murray State Journalism major. She found her place in radio during her second year in Murray. She is from Herndon, KY, a small farming community on the Kentucky/Tennessee stateline.
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