The event focuses on the challenges of various business owners during the pandemic

Malia Anderson always wanted to work for herself.

Anderson, who runs a full-service styling and branding consultancy in Sonoma County called Style by Malia, said his entrepreneurial spirit was influenced by his grandmother, who at nearly 90 years old , still runs his own business.

But the last few years of back-to-back wildfires in the region, starting with the Tubbs explosive fire in 2017, have set his business back down, Anderson said.

It was on track to recoup those losses by the end of 2019, only to take another blow months later when restrictions put in place to curb the coronavirus pandemic crippled all but the most essential businesses.

“There was no event. People weren’t traveling. So there was no opportunity for me to scale my business, or even pivot my business, because my business is a people business, ”said Anderson.

She was one of four people who on Wednesday shared their experiences running a small business in Sonoma County during the pandemic at a Sonoma County Economic Development Board event.

Entitled “Economic Perspective: Impact of BIPOC”, it highlighted the impacts and economic challenges of the pandemic faced by business owners who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of color, a group that is collectively known as BIPOC.

Marlene Orozco, senior research analyst at the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, a research and education program, was the keynote speaker.

She supplemented the panel’s comments with national and statewide data on how business owners of color have performed in the United States, over the past 18 months.

A 2020 study that Orozco highlighted showed that nonprofits, fintech companies, and minority development institutions were more likely to distribute loans from the Federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP loans. , businesses owned by Blacks and Latinos.

The forgivable loans were authorized to help small businesses pay their employees during the economic shutdown, which was put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our research showed that the big national banks and, to a lesser extent, local banks, were not getting funds for BIPOC entrepreneurs,” Orozco said, adding that contacts with regional banks, as well as His previous experience with the Small Business Administration was essential for obtaining PPP loans.

Panel member Juan Hernandez, owner of Sausalito-based lending and investment startup Creser Capital, said many small companies he worked with during the pandemic who were looking for a PPP loan had no relationship. existing with a bank, although these institutions are a vital entry point for the lending program.

His business is what is known as a Community Development Financial Institution, or CDFI, which is established to provide affordable and responsible loans to people with low income, low income, or from underfunded communities.

“When Latinos and people of color cannot access capital because of institutional racism or a lack of understanding of how it works, whether it’s language or relationships, what good is social justice if we are excluded from economic opportunities? “said Hernandez.

Ozzy Jimenez, Healdsburg Town Council member and owner / founder of Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie Bar, said lack of financial literacy was a common problem among small business owners in the Latino community.

“One of my biggest concerns in Sonoma County, which I love, was all of our little manufacturers, artisans and designers who don’t have that financial literacy,” he said. “I was worried about cultural erasure.”

Orozco, who is conducting a survey of business owners in Sonoma County to learn more about the obstacles and triumphs they faced during the pandemic, also encouraged more people to participate in his study.

So far, around 100 people have responded to the survey, although so far most respondents are either white or Latino. She’ll need about 100 responses from every racial demographic in Sonoma County to perform a thorough analysis of each, Orozco said.

The deadline for completing the 15-minute survey has been extended to August 20.

You can reach Editor-in-Chief Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or [email protected] On Twitter @nashellytweets.

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