HOUSTON - Some Houston business owners are throwing out a lifeline to help other local companies stay afloat through the pandemic. It’s a shining example of Positively Houston.
The Texas Black Expo, for instance, has already given $30,000 to Houston small business owners and they’re actually just getting started.
“I’m just so grateful to the Texas Black Expo,” says Monica Jones-Thomas whose Conroe trucking company came to a screeching halt in this COVID-19 crisis. So she prayed for a miracle. "And here we are and I’m just like thank you God".
Thomas' company T & F Carriers received a $1,600 grant from Texas Black Expo, money she’ll use to pay for required commercial insurance.
"It’s a tremendous weight off of our shoulders. There are no words that can really describe how much this has helped our company,” says Thomas.
Texas Black Expo has given mostly $1,000 grants to 29 Houston business owners thanks to donors. "Our ultimate goal is to help them stay in business,” says Founder of Texas Black Expo Jerome D. Love who says saving black businesses and the jobs that come with them, means saving the community.
"A lot of the negative disparities that face many minority communities from prison recidivism to high school dropouts, to health issues there’s one commonality, it's income,” Love explains.
The more than 13,000 Houston black business owners in the Black Business Focus Group Facebook group are coming out of pocket to also help Houston small businesses survive.
"God just put it on my heart, you donate $300 and I’m like God where am I going to get that from? I’m like ok I'm not going to question you I’m just going to do it,” explains Karen Amos owner of Karen’s Make Ready Services.
Amos’ 11-year-old cleaning company is slow now but making it. So she wants to help save other owners who may not be as fortunate. "I was seeing business owners feeling a sense of hopelessness and I couldn’t sit and do nothing,” says Amos.
The Black Business Focus Group just came up with the idea and they’ve already raised $1,500. "I was kind of a bully when I was contacting the other business owners but I was just saying these owners could lose their business. We can’t let that happen. No that’s not going to happen,” says Amos.
For now, the group is giving three area businesses $500 each, and the business owners in the group plan to continue giving to others until this crisis is over.
“Research shows 40% of small businesses don’t make it through a disaster, specifically within underserved communities, minority African American communities those statistics are exacerbated even more. So we wanted to do our part to ensure underserved communities had a fair chance for survival,” adds Love whose goal is to raise $100,000 and help 100 business owners. “So they can take care of their household but then they can also support the community at large".
Henry Keculah's after school enrichment and college preparedness business 4.0 GPA has laid off 14 of its 18 employees. The $1,000 micro grant his company received from Texas Black Expo will certainly help.
"it was going to be very devastating without it. It was going to put us in a bind. We were going to have to cut back on some of the programs this summer. We had to shut down when schools did immediately. So we lost most of our contracts in March, April, and May. We plan to resume programs in June,” Keculah explains.
The money being given may not be a lot but the donors say this isn’t only a financial push but also a boost of morale to show struggling business owners others are standing with them and cheering on their success.