BIPOC-owned small businesses have disproportionally been affected by the pandemic. At the start of the health crisis and despite the uncertainty about the future of their businesses two business owners put their interest aside to help the community and even start a new business.
Over the past 10 years, community members have come together to support their local businesses with Small Business Saturday, a holiday shopping tradition part of the nationwide Shop Small Movement dedicated to uniting communities and supporting all kinds of small businesses. Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Black Friday and this year it will be on November 28th.
This past October, Comcast donated $350,000 in cash and in-kind support to Opportunity Fund. This donation allows Opportunity Fund to provide microloans for and wraparound services to BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color)-owned small businesses.
Reign Free and Manuel Martinez, are two recipients of Opportunity Fund’s microloans, who were met with hard times during the pandemic and are now paving their way to success.
Reign Free, The Red Door Group
Reign’s catering business stems from her familial connection to food. It has also served as a space to heal and build community. She says that cooking and community are the bedrock of The Red Door Catering.
She started in her own kitchen and eventually moved on to a co-op kitchen where she was able to thrive and grow, eventually landing her in a kitchen to call her own. In her desire to hire more people, she discovered Opportunity Fund and has since employed hundreds of people throughout the years, five of who went on to start their own businesses.
When the pandemic began, Reign felt depressed when realizing the toll it would take on her business and her employees. Since she had built a community around her food, they didn’t let her stay down for long. Her company redirected its efforts to serve people locally and give back to those in need. Reign hopes to use the microloan to turn her 5,000 square foot kitchen into a co-op, to give back in the same way that she had once been helped.
Manuel Martinez, La Viga Seafood & Cocina Mexicana, LV Mar and San Agus
Chef Manuel had to lay off 90% of his restaurant’s staff when the pandemic hit in March. He claims it was one of the saddest days of his life. His business, like many others, has had to adapt to the changes the pandemic has forced on their daily practices. From take-out to cashless payment, they are making new plans to serve the community in the safest possible way.
Manuel has been in the restaurant business for over two decades and has two restaurants in Redwood City, La Viga Seafood & Cocina Mexicana and LV Mar. His newest endeavor is San Agus, a new restaurant that will open soon in Palo Alto.
The microloan from Opportunity Fund will help him keep doors open and maintain the new business operations that are needed. He hopes to hire his staff back and continuing to serve his employees and customers.
During this season don’t forget about the small businesses that could use your support. If you’re looking for small businesses to shop check out the businesses supported by Opportunity Fund.
If you are looking for some ideas on how to support local businesses while staying safe, consider these:
- Online shopping – Want to Shop Small from your couch? Consider etsy.com as one curator of independent businesses or visit the website of a local business near you.
- Purchase a gift card – Buying gift cards for yourself or friends/family from local businesses is easy, safe, and always in style.
- Do a virtual work-out, cooking class, etc. – If you’re feeling bold, give a virtual work-out or cooking class a try.
- Make a donation – Various organizations like parks, conservations, zoos, and animal shelters are always a great place to donate if you can manage it.
- Get take-out or delivery – I think we are all sick of cooking at this point so get some take-out for dinner OR consider ordering Thanksgiving pie or dessert from a local biz.
- Write a great review – Small businesses THRIVE on word of mouth! Give them a great review on Yelp!, Facebook or Google. They will appreciate it & it will help their business.