The Impact of MicroGrants on San Bruno Small Businesses – The Skyline View

Since 1996, Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop has fed the community of San Bruno with fresh ingredients and their signature Boudin bread. But when COVID-19 hit, this city staple suffered huge losses.
“[The pandemic] has touched us greatly in all aspects, including in the field of catering. Our daily sales had dropped significantly… by around 60%, ”said owner Claudia Lopez. [Not only has there been] shortages on supplies, but everything – meats, vegetables – almost doubled or tripled in price.

This phenomenon is not unique to Mr. Pickle’s. Hundreds of Bay Area businesses have been hit by supply shortages, rising costs and an overall loss of net income. According to recent data from the US Census Bureau, small businesses dominate the market in San Mateo County, with 97.4% of businesses operating with less than 100 employees. Unfortunately, these businesses have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.

“In the three weeks since the Bay Area businesses closed, we were down 60%… our numbers have dropped dramatically,” said Peter Johnson, owner of the Dojo USA martial arts studio. When you’ve been doing something in person for 27 years, how do you instantly go 100% online? “

To address this issue, Skyline’s Bay Area Entrepreneurship Center (BAEC), with additional support from the San Bruno Community Foundation and the City of San Bruno, provided micro-grants to businesses in San Bruno. This initiative is offered as part of the Small Business Recovery Assistance Program (SBRAP).

“First of all, [these businesses] need a small injection of money. Lots of businesses have taken to the web, like restaurants that suddenly had to order online, and some of them didn’t have that capability, ”said Michael Kane, acting director of BAEC. “The other thing we noticed was that some of the companies needed coaching to help them make changes. “

For two years in a row, the grants have piloted such changes for 47 business owners, including Lopez and Johnson. The 2020 and 2021 recipients received $ 4,000 to $ 7,000, respectively. After selection by an independent jury, the recipients agreed to participate in at least six workshops, a major component of the program.

“Some of these workshops include tutorials on creating Canva flyers, [introductions to] different website platforms, how to use Instagram Reels, how to network – all those basic marketing tools, ”said Marketing Manager Nicole Moreno-Deinzer. “We have guests coming to talk about financial literacy and [ways to apply for] more grants.

These workshops offer beneficiaries the opportunity to change the landscape of their business, as was the case for Monica Suarez, owner of Balance Health Nutrition.

“I realized we don’t have to wait for things to open up again; I can actually continue to do business through Zoom and deliver my services that way, ”Suarez said. “The other day I was on the coaching call they provided on social media… They provide a lot of great resources on how to use different types of technology.”

With these tools, it now has the bandwidth to extend its services to a larger network of people. While implementing these changes presented challenges, Johnson’s open-minded approach eased his transition process.

“I had to go from a brick and mortar business to a click and mortar business,” Johnson said. “Being a business focused on people-to-people interaction, redefining that to an online platform had its unique challenges… I feel like it’s not the technology that limits us. It’s our psychology. Whether we connect in person or in pixel, connection is connection.

The result of Johnson’s forward-thinking mindset, which he hopes to extend to his students, is tangible even to casual passers-by.

“[The evolution] Peter’s business was obvious… Before the pandemic, he had a little whiteboard in the window with inspirational messages. Over time that changed to “this is my website, this is my Instagram”. You could see this development just by walking in front of the storefront, ”Kane said.

These improvements were made possible by the San Bruno Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization funded by the $ 70 million restitution from the pipeline explosion in 2010, of which $ 257,000 was allocated to SBRAP.

“At this point we do not intend to continue [the microgrant program], but supporting our small business community, especially as it continues to face the economic impact of COVID, is something that interests us, ”said Executive Director Leslie Hatamiya. We really appreciate the partnership we have developed with BAEC through this program. “

The San Bruno Community Foundation and BAEC are not the only entities to have formed a partnership. A distinctive feature of the program is its ability to establish links between participating companies.

“I have noticed that the entrepreneurial community is more useful than competitive. The more I share with other people, the more they show up with me as well, ”Suarez said. “I really enjoyed growing my business with other entrepreneurs.

This continued growth and service to the community is at the heart of small businesses in San Bruno and businesses in general.
“The main reason we wanted to open a business was the American dream. With COVID, the American dream has been put on hold, but it can still be done, ”Lopez said. There are a lot of resources, like this grant, that help small businesses.

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