Minority businesses are and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. So much so, that they’re twice as likely to fail during the pandemic.
But, some black business owners in Southwest Florida are doing what they can to keep their doors open during these tough times.
Michelle Pope puts her special touch into all the food she makes, that’s why she named her business Chelle’s Special Touch Cafe. But, during this pandemic, she’s had to simply rely on resilience to keep her doors open.
“This is a tough time for everyone that has a small business in the Black community,” Pope said. “People are struggling to pay their bills. Some people had jobs for years that went to working at home and now they don’t have any jobs at all. Everyone is struggling.”
Pope prepares her usual day-to-day orders, offers catering and meal prep services. But, the bulk of her business comes from making private school lunches.
“People are doing online learning so that put my business in a real disadvantage,” she said.
A few months ago, Pope received a lifeline, some financial help to keep her going. She got a PPP loan through her bank.
“It was probably one of the reasons why I kept my door open because of the funding,” Pope said.
Unfortunately, not every Black business owner was so fortunate. Data from the Paycheck Protection Program itself shows that many minority-owned businesses waited longer than others to get the loans. And, a New York Federal Reserve Bank study found that Black-owned businesses during the pandemic are almost twice as likely to fail.
Adenike Johnson is the owner of Fibrre, located inside LA Fitness in Gulf Coast Town Center and did not get a PPP loan. “What was really even more tough was there were no answers. There were no real answers and there was no support during that time,” Jonhson said.
During that time, Johnson’s husband also contracted COVID-19. The stress of caring for him and trying to keep the business going caused her to suffer from vocal chord paralysis. That’s why it sounds like she’s whispering.
Luckily, her husband recovered and her business is still open. “A part of the Black experience is resiliency, determination, and dedication,” Johnson said.
“I’ve just came to the conclusion that we just choose not to give up like no matter what the situation my look inside the walls and what amount of customers, we still get up every day,” Pope said.
They get up every day, put one foot in front of the other and believe that better days are coming.
Adenike Johnson says she studied the way businesses stayed afloat during The Great Depression and now she teaches other business owners how to build a recession-proof business.