Charlotte non-profit helps Latin businesses apply for aid

Marion Steward

Prospera is helping business owners apply for aid they may not have been aware existed.

DAVIDSON, N.C. — The pandemic’s toll on the economy is no secret, especially on locally-owned businesses across the country. But local Latin-owned businesses in Davidson still have a few more days to apply for financial relief under a state program.

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

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

Mestizo has been part of Davidson’s business community for about 7 years. Just like others in town, they’re still facing the aftereffects of initial lockdowns and restrictions tied to COVID-19.

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“It’s been hard because we had to close for a while and do just to-go’s,” said Barrera.

Carlos Zepeda is a business development consultant with Charlotte’s Prospera office, a group dedicated to helping Hispanic-owned businesses grow with services like consulting and grants. Prospera is working in partnership with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte. Their goal is to make sure Hispanic and Latin American business owners have the support they need to keep their doors open. Zepeda says in many cases some don’t know who to turn to when struggling.

“They were not able to understand where to go in terms of resources, knowledgeable resources to apply to,” he said, “and as a result of that many of them were not able to apply for funding.”

One of those resources is the North Carolina Department of Revenue’s business recovery grant, which accepts applications through Jan. 31, 2022. This is for any business that suffered at least a 20% loss. For those who qualify, it could mean a check for up to $500,000.

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

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Barrera is thankful to have the help. She’s applied for the grant and said having everything laid out in Spanish.

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

She’s hopeful the application will be approved because the business is part of a long-term plan; the family’s vision is to pass Mestizo down to their kids and continue working together for many years to come.

“Of course it’s hard, but to have the support of each other, it’s been a blessing,” said Barrera.

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

“We’re helping our communities participate in the economics of this society and also help them fulfill the American dream,” he said.

Contact Jesse Pierre at [email protected] or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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