EL SERENO, Calif. — From street vendor to restaurant owner, Adan Rodriguez worked hard to build his American dream. But since the pandemic, he’s not sure that his business will make it.
“It feels bad because we’re struggling a lot in two businesses, but I think everyone is struggling,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s business Zingo Tacos operates in a small restaurant space in the El Sereno neighborhood. His business typically made the most money from catering orders that are nearly nonexistent now.
On top of that, he said he’s lost about 50 percent in restaurant sales. Without enough money coming in, his daughter Luz Rodriguez helps him run the restaurant as they try to navigate PPP loans to help save their family business.
“We tried and sometimes there’s so many loopholes and so many financial statements and all this stuff that we need to provide, that sometimes we don’t have the education or experience to provide the necessary stuff,” said Luz.
During the pandemic, some small businesses were unable to access PPP loans designed to help them to stay afloat. In a recent U.S. Census Small Business Pulse Survey, nearly 43 percent of respondents reported the pandemic to have a largely negative effect on their small businesses.
Access to capital is one of the leading root causes of poverty for minority small business owners in urban areas, according to nonprofit Inclusive Action. The nonprofit works with small business owners in need and provides small grants and microloans up to $35,000.
During the pandemic, they also gained access to some PPP loans to help disburse the amounts to small businesses that are unable to gain access to the capital themselves, like Zingo Tacos. While the loans are helping to buy Rodriguez more time to recover, Rudy Espinoza, the nonprofit’s executive director said it won’t be enough to keep doors open through the pandemic.
“It’s amazing that we have organizations and banks even talking about loans to small businesses," said Espinoza. "But, the fact is, these are temporary solutions and we need to think about systemic solutions to support our entrepreneurs. We need to get better loans out to businesses and we need to get grants out to businesses."
For now, the loan is helping Rodriguez provide for his family by keeping his business open. But until things turn around, he believes he's operating on borrowed time.
“As all of this continues, we don’t see the end to finish this because they said this would last [only] a couple months," said Rodriguez. "I’m worried because this could go until the end of the year.”
Until then, Rodriguez – like many other small business owners – said he’ll try his best to make it through this pandemic, even if it’s only one order at a time.