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Increasing Resiliency and Growth for Small Businesses in a Tough Economy

A few months ago, Deysi Serrano wouldn’t have even considered adding an online ordering function to her website. 

Deysi, the owner of Milpa Grille in Boyle Heights, said the community was close knit, and her customers often came through word of mouth, or by passing the shop on the street. 

Fast forward to May, and she has a thriving online customer base. She has adapted her website to meet the needs of her patrons during the COVID-19 era, moving to online ordering and an increased social media presence with much success – and much delight from her community. 

“The support has been amazing – we're doing take out, and online ordering is definitely a must,” she said. “Especially in Boyle Heights I think it's kind of hard to find this healthy spot that also caters to vegans or vegetarians, so it was definitely beautiful, beautiful to get that support.”

Deysi is one of 326 small business owners in Los Angeles who participated in LISC LA’s Keeping Shops on the Block webinar series as well. Owners like Deysi remind us that, at LISC LA, we don’t just need to focus on survival during these trying times – we can focus on resiliency.

As part of our continued efforts towards increasing resiliency and growth for small businesses in a tough economy, we launched our Keeping Shops on the Block Program this April. For those of you following our work, you may have already heard of the program, which has helped small businesses like Deysi’s learn about their options, gain access to funding resources, and plan new business models within the digital environment.

The five part webinar series, which was made possible through generous funding from Wells Fargo, provided resources to a myriad of different business owners, including specific conversations for owners of businesses in South LA, East LA, the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, and in the Asian Pacific Islander and Valley community. These tailored approaches allowed us to reach business owners from diverse neighborhoods throughout the County that are often unable to access other emergency resources. 

Small businesses are already doing the work – and we’re here to give them the resources they need to ensure their vision reaches its full potential. In our API Businesses Webinar, 74% of participants had already expanded their online outreach or were planning on doing so in the near future. With the help of our resource guide and toolkit, these businesses are now equipped with the knowledge to access complicated federal and state funding to continue expanding their online outreach and exploring new options. 

LISC LA is also proud to have presented 25 grants of $2,500 to small businesses across the county during these webinars. 

Deysi said the grant allowed her to reopen Milpa Grille after a short hiatus following the stay at home orders, and helped her business stock up on inventory. Keeping our Shop on the Block is attempting to do just that – because when small businesses stay open, it’s a win for the whole community. 

“We've been doing a lot of community outreach – we helped the YMCA serve 3000 meals and distributed [food] bags to be delivered out to the elderly, and then I got involved by giving about 550 meals to skid row Housing Trust,” Deysi said. “COVID has definitely united everybody, and that’s just beautiful.”

Keeping Our Shops on the Block
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