Kearston “Kearsy” Hoffman and her husband Colton are proud to run the V-Sports Arena, an entertainment center with virtual reality, laser tag, and nerf guns. “We have a virtual simulation of falling off an eighty story building that’s so realistic, I’ve seen grown men freeze up and back away. Out of our 200 different experiences, I really like this one!” Kearsy described cheerfully. While their business started with virtual reality in 2018, just last year the family acquired partners and added laser tag and nerf activities.
Those silent partners exited just this February, meaning Kearsy and Colton were once again allowed to take owner profits and start making income. Unfortunately, Gov. Little’s business shutdown derailed the Hoffman family’s success story. February, March, and April are the entertainment center’s busiest seasons, where they build up enough money to survive the rest of the year. But, Kearsy said, “we had to close our doors on March 21st, and call to cancel 20 kids’ birthday parties.”
“Financially, this situation has been a little bit of a burden,” Kearsy said modestly. The young family is now in debt and struggling to survive. “Our loss from the partnership was supposed to be made up during the busiest months. So now, we’re in trouble.” The Hoffmans used their small amount of profit and aid from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to pay employees, “but that left nothing for my husband and me, the owners.” Their employees fortunately managed to get unemployment money and stimulus checks, as well. But Kearsy explained the PPP doesn’t allow owners to use the funds to pay themselves. And while Idaho has a grant program for small businesses, because the Hoffmans received PPP money, they do not qualify. “Despite the much-appreciated help,” Keasy said, “all the strings attached meant my husband and I can’t get anything, and we just had a baby.”
Kearsy described how her family’s personal savings “were completely zeroed out. We had no more money, especially with the expenses from our baby on the way.” Kearsy credits God and her community for stepping in to help her young family. People kept stopping by to give them gifts, “and it was always exactly what we needed. Since we live in an apartment above our business, we can be very frugal. And we had some rice and beans in the pantry, so we’re doing okay.” Kearsy prefers to put a positive spin on things: “It’s like the world stopped for my son to be born, and we had a whole arcade in which to bond with him.”
Kearsy and Colton wish they could tell Governor Little how they struggled to get help. “The lack of communication has been frustrating, for financial planning or just to receive aid. The government says we’re going to get help, but we can’t even call the unemployment or Department of Labor lines. They're either busy or not accepting calls.” Kearsy noted, “We couldn’t get aid that really could have helped us personally for income.”
While the V-Sports Arena was able to re-open during phase one on May first, things are still dicey for the young family. Said Kearsy: “We have faith we are going to be okay as we recover. But we don’t know if our business will survive. There’s just no clear-cut answer.”