RDF Hosts Focus Groups with Small Business Owners
During the pandemic, the Raza Development Fund took swift action to support small businesses through these turbulent economic times by launching the COVID-19 Hope Fund grants and becoming a qualified lender for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program loan. Through these programs, we have helped business owners pay their employees and keep their doors open. Last month, we hosted a series of Focus Groups, in-person group conversations following COVID-19 safety protocols, with our client grantees and loan recipients to gain a deeper understanding of how these programs impacted their business and the types of resources we could further provide.
Sessions were in both English and Spanish so that participants can comfortably share their stories and experiences of building and maintaining their businesses as well as their hopes for growth and expansion. The majority described the financial support as a lifeline at a critical time.
“We had a hard shut last year and re-opened with a 90% deficit. You can’t run a business that way. The day the Hope Fund grant check came was the day payroll was due and we were grateful to be able to pay our staff,” said Stephanie Angelic Vasquez, owner of Fair Trade Endeavors LLC / The Fair Trade Café.
Others described gratitude for the support they received throughout the grant or loan process.
“It’s that personal touch. RDF made my loan process so very simple. As a sole owner, it’s nice to have support and to know that it can be done,” said Manuel Estrada, owner of Eleven Mercantile & Technical Solutions, LLC.
Thank you to all who participated taking the time to join us and provide your insightful input.
“The Focus Groups gave us an opportunity to understand the challenges that lie ahead for small businesses in our communities and to ensure that we are listening to their voices and responding to them,” says Eugenia Vivanco, RDF’s Community Impact & Funding Director and a key organizer of the Focus Groups. “Plus, they were a way for our team to strengthen our relationship with local small business owners.”
“It was great to see everyone. Nothing compares to being able to connect on a human level, sharing stories, food, and laughs. When you work with RDF, you aren’t just a client – in a sense, you become family, and our Small Business Initiatives team is dedicated to supporting you every step of the way,” Star Reyes, RDF’s Client Services Manager, says. “It was great to hear how our support has impacted their businesses and learn ways we can continue to reassure our commitment to them.”
With our passion for supporting our South Phoenix community, these Focus Group sessions were held at the Audubon Center. We are incredibly grateful to them for allowing us to use their beautiful artistic space.
We also worked with Sana Sana Foods, a local business, to offer delicious food during the sessions.
RDF looks forward to joining these small businesses on their journey to continue to grow and flourish with additional resources like technical assistance.