Charlotte nonprofit helps Latin businesses apply for aid

Prospera helps business owners seek help they may not have known existed.

DAVIDSON, North Carolina — The toll of the pandemic on the economy is no secret, especially for local businesses across the country. But local businesses still have a few days to apply for financial assistance under a state program.

Guadalupe Barrera and her siblings own Mestizo Contemporary Mexican Cuisine. Running the restaurant is a family affair as tasty dishes are served, from caldo xochitl to pollo mestizo.

“Mexican food isn’t just tacos, rice and beans. It’s more than that. We have different types of seafood, we have a lot of different meats,” Barrera said.

Mestizo has been part of the Davidson business community for approximately 7 years. Like others in town, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the initial lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions.

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“It’s been tough because we had to close for a while and just do take-out stuff,” Barrera said.

Carlos Zepeda is a business development consultant at Charlotte’s will prosper office, a group dedicated to helping Hispanic businesses grow with services like consulting and grants. Prospera works in partnership with the Charlotte Latin American Chamber of Commerce. Their goal is to make sure Hispanic and Latino business owners have the support they need to keep their doors open. Zepeda says that in many cases, people don’t know where to turn in the event of difficulty.

“They weren’t able to figure out where to go in terms of resources, knowledgeable resources to apply to,” he said, “and as a result, a lot of them weren’t able to apply for funding. .”

One of these resources is the North Carolina Department of Revenue Disaster Recovery Grant, which is accepting applications until January 31, 2022. This is any company that has suffered a loss of at least 20%. For those who qualify, that could mean a check for up to $500,000.

“One of the first things with our Hispanic entrepreneurs and business owners is to figure out if it’s a grant or a loan,” Zepeda said, “and we explained to them that a grant is something they don’t have to repay.”

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Barrera is grateful for the help. She applied for the grant and says she wrote everything in Spanish.

“Having this in your own language makes it easier to understand all the processes,” she said.

She hopes the request will be approved because the business is part of a long-term plan. the family’s vision is to pass Mestizo on to their children and continue to work together for many years to come.

“Of course it’s difficult, but having each other’s support is a blessing,” Barrera said.

For Zepeda, acting as a touchstone for Latino-owned businesses means being able to help them realize their dreams and actively engage with their neighbors.

“We help our communities participate in the economy of this society and also help them realize the American dream,” he said.

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