Keeping Track of Small Businesses

Many small businesses are calling it quits -- but it's hard to track actual numbers. Have you heard of a small business on the Eastside that has closed? Let us know. We want to better understand how the national economics are affecting our local community.

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

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Local grants support Eastside businesses

Sweet Potato Music

A professional and classically trained musician, Leah Paul (with daughter Marnie) taught music for 20 years before she started her own business, Sweet Potato Music, nearly three years ago. Today, she offers virtual and in-person classes outside for adults and children.

Since its inception in early July, the LA Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund has distributed more than $3.2 million in grants to approximately 300 small businesses, nonprofits and microentrepreneurs around Los Angeles County.

The fund, a product of public, philanthropic and corporate partners, was created because many Angeleno businesses were often denied federal aid because of financial, technical and/or cultural barriers.  Grant winners are selected through a randomized application system and certain criteria (veteran-owned, businesses in districts with higher unemployment, etc.) are weighted more heavily.

The first round of grants kicked off in early July and Round 6, the final round, is scheduled for October 26-30. Grantees run the gamut from nail salons, trucking services, pet grooming, bail bonds, handy man services and more.

Here on the Eastside, two LA COVID-19 grantees include La Lupita Restaurant in Boyle Heights and Sweet Potato Music in Atwater Village. Here are there stories:

Serving the community for almost 30 years

Silvia Chavez runs her family restaurant La Lupita, which has served the Boyle Heights community for almost 30 years.

With the pandemic closing down restaurants, Chavez could only offer takeout orders because they had no space to host outdoor dining.

As bills were piling up, Chavez contracted COVID-19 which forced the restaurant to close completely. While battling both coronavirus and a case of pneumonia, Chavez was struggling with the building owner who threatened to get a new tenant.

Receiving the grant money allowed Chavez to catch up on rent and bills; she continues to recover and hopes to reopen La Lupita soon.

Breathing room for music  

“I was sick to my stomach and wondered what will I do?,” remembers Leah Paul when she first heard about coronavirus in March. A professional and classically trained musician, Paul was riding high on her popular music class series for young children, Sweet Potato Music, offering early education sessions at selected locations in Atwater Village, Eagle Rock and Downtown Los Angeles. She was planning on expanding her range when COVID brought everything to a halt.

“I knew I had to put everything online,” says Paul, determined to find a way to continue offering her classes.  She knew virtual classes wouldn’t bring her the same money as in-person, so she started planning how she could, when the time was right, bring her sessions safely outdoors. In July, she began offering outdoor classes at a neighborhood park.

“Receiving the grant was extremely helpful when I started the outdoor classes,” she says about being able to replace equipment to meet safety protocols. “The grant gave me breathing room.”

During outdoor classes, adult/chairs pair sits inside large hula hoops to keep a safe distance. Many grateful parents have told Paul these classes are the first thing they’ve been able to do with their kids in months.

“Even before COVID I felt like what I did was important,” says Paul. “But now I see how much parents need time, place and a community like this.”

Poll: If your small biz received a grant, how would you apply it?

You voted:

Biz Buzz Asks: How's Business?

We asked the question to Darren La Borie, owner of Muddy Paw Cafe.

How's Business Muddy Paws

Muddy Paw is located at 3320 Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake and 460 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock

Local Nonprofits of the Year

The California Association of Nonprofits recently announced its list of Nonprofit of the Year, an honor bestowed on organizations selected by state legislators who call attention to the diverse and vital work being done in their communities.  Two of them are on the Eastside.

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo in District 51 honored Centro de Niños, Inc. in East Los Angeles. The bilingual-bicultural children’s center was founded in 1972 and today provides free and low cost quality childcare/child development, social welfare and education services to families.

In District 53, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago called out the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Boyle Heights for its ongoing programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all community members.

Start me up?

The U.S. Census recently released third quarter business data, which revealed that through Oct. 3, business applications were up a record 40 percent – which could possibly signal a startup boom.

According to the Economist, “the recent surge in entrepreneurial-dom can draw a straight line to the government pandemic relief efforts, which prioritized income protection ($1.2k stimulus checks + high unemployment insurance) over job protection.”

Additionally, digital platforms are making it easy to start an online-focused and online-only business. 

How’s your security blanket?

It’s scary out there. A recent poll reports that just 35 percent of American said they feel completely financially secure while the rest are navigating unknown waters.

The Marketplace-Edison Poll also revealed that nearly 20 percent have missed a rent payment in the last six months; and nearly 50 percent said it would be hard for them to pay an unexpected $250 expense.

The poll also found that one-third of Americans have less income now than before the pandemic.

Your WFH spine

The pandemic has sent many employees to Work From Home – and now many of those workers are seeing chiropractors as the result.

The New York Times points to a recent Facebook survey from the American Chiropractic Association, where 92 percent of chiropractors (out of 213 respondents) said that patients are complaining of more neck pain, back pain or other musculoskeletal issues since the stay-at-home guidance began.

The biggest culprits? Improperly looking down at laptops and, sitting for long periods on sofas/kitchen stools rather than ergonomic desk chairs.

That’s it for this issue!

The holidays will be here before we know it. How is your business approaching the gift giving season?  We will be back next week with more Biz Buzz.

-- Brenda Rees

Connect With Your Chamber of Commerce

Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce

Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce

East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce

Echo Park Chamber of Commerce

Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce

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