By Natalie Rodgers
Of the small businesses to suffer the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinx-owned businesses make up a majority of the impact. According to a survey done by the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, nearly 86 percent of Latinx businesses owners reported that their business was negatively impacted by COVID-19 in some way. These high percentages are especially interesting considering that Latinx small businesses make up about $500 billion of the economy’s yearly sales.
Many of these businesses depended on relief initiatives, such as the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), to help keep their companies on the ground, but many of them were not able to receive these quickly dissipating funds. Because of this, many Latinx businesspeople have taken to their own methods to help keep their businesses running, their employees paid, and their customers satisfied. In fact, this was precisely the situation for Lucina Gomez, the owner of Café Victoria in Dallas, Texas.
When Gomez noticed that the pandemic was taking away more and more of her customers, her main goal became clear: to keep paying her four employees. Gomez shortened the working days of the café and began to branch her businesses into the world of online order and delivery. Passing out advertising material herself while walking through town, she began
to receive momentum again as the digital orders flooded in, especially orders being bought for first responders of the pandemic. Though Gomez’ business still remains effected by the pandemic, the switch to online ordering has given her enough to keep her store running and her employees paid. In fact, she even increased her payroll for 15 percent to accommodate this new sales facet.
Similarly, Andre Reyes, owner of the Chicago restaurant, Birrieria Ocotlan, began to utilize online resources as the pandemic worsened. Paying close attention to the virus since January, Reyes began preparing for the possibility of a pandemic by stocking up on cleaning supplies and protective gear.
Once Chicago ordered the stay-at-home order, Reyes’ planning was able to effectively prepare his staff to continue business. His employees immediately began showing up to work in hazmat suits, and curbside ordering was implemented immediately.
Additionally, Reyes partnered with Uber Eats implementing an easier option for food delivery services, which proved especially helpful once Birrieria Ocotlan moved to exclusively serving through delivery and pick-up methods. Reyes’ preparedness and partnership with online sources has not only ensured that the restaurant stays in business and that the staff was paid, but also the restaurant’s profits have returned to a pre-pandemic normal.
Online services have not only served food-based industries like Café Victoria but have also proved to be an anchor for gyms. Nathalie Hurtado, the owner of The Queer Gym, is no stranger to running a small business during financial crisis. Hurtado opened her gym in 2008 amid the recession and depended on smart shopping and saving to get her business off the
Though the only physical location of The Queer Gym exists in Oakland, California, Hurtado had already been offering online courses and classes that contributed to 50 percent of her total income.
Now as many gyms have been ordered to close, especially in California, Hurtado switched to a fully online approach to her business where her staff helps her lead the numerous live workout sessions that occur daily.
Similarly, to Gomez, Hurtado increased her advertising, ensuring that her ads were directly affecting LGBTQ+ audiences across the United States. Since moving to a completely digital platform and doubling up on their advertising, The Queer Gym is not just surviving, but thriving, as they have tripled her cliental and are even considering continuing their purely online platform after the pandemic.
Through the unpredictability of the times, it’s hard to say what the future will hold for businesses, but Andre Reyes put it best when he said, “It’s our duty to educate ourselves on everything that is available to us right now, and there’s nothing bad in undergoing change or emerging from it.”