Through the Paseo Boricua Neighborhood Business Development Center (NBDC) and our now officially open Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Puerto Rican Cultural Center Humboldt Park, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) continues to support small businesses and entrepreneurs with access to COVID-19 resources from the federal government, Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the City of Chicago, as well as private funding and grants as they become available.
Working remotely does pose challenges for some small businesses that are not computer savvy, but in general, we have been able to reach our businesses via email or phone. We have had one-on-one virtual meetings or calls with at least 25 Paseo Boricua business owners and approximately 20 other business owners/entrepreneurs from around the City (mostly Latinx), regarding available resources and webinars for businesses, the self-employed, and contractors. Supporting additional small businesses has also been done via email.
In May, we received additional funding to support the City of Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) to act as a Small Business Resource Navigator for the City of Chicago, in English & Spanish, which expanded our support to other areas of Chicagoland.
Additionally, thanks to the Cocina Mutua Campaign, the Puerto Rican Agenda (PRA) is supporting Nellie’s Restaurant through ordering 46 hot meals daily to provide to the elderly and people with disabilities daily sustenance. This campaign is co-sponsored by PRCC, which provides the volunteers charged with making the food deliveries each day. According to restaurant owner Pablo Espinosa, due to the Cocina Mutua campaign and orders from other organizations that are doing similar community efforts, and in addition to his regular customers, his restaurant has not had to apply for federal loans. “Right now we are doing ok”, he said.
Moreover, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center received a grant to provide meals to residents of the El Rescate shelter. This grant was used to contract the Colombian Restaurant – Curramba, in order to accomplish this. Consequently, Curramba’s owner, Helga Weis, was able to open her doors once more after three weeks of being shut down due to COVID-19.
As part of our business initiative to support Paseo Boricua Restaurants, we have distributed 5,000 pluggers, many going house-to-house, to promote the restaurants that are currently open. We are also working on a coupon flyer with discounts from businesses to aid in the process of recovery and sustainability.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict the normal functioning of businesses, we are strategizing to find more creative ways to stimulate the economy of our area. We are planning online webinars on how to turn your businesses to ecommerce, how to ensure the safety of customers as per State and CDC mandates, as well as to use social media to promote your business, among others. If you would like to have more information about our business initiatives or if you would like to be added to our business list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Nadya Henriquez, PRCC Business Initiatives