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“The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners and we need to repair”, say Brooklyn2Bogota founders

Rosario B. Casas and Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur are the founders of Brooklyn2Bogota, a digital incubator for Hispanic business owners. Rosario is an award-winning women-in-tech advocate and serial tech entrepreneur. Felipe is an author, entrepreneur, engineer and veteran.  

The married couple founded Brooklyn2Bogota with the mission to close the digital divide post-Covid for business owners and entrepreneurs by focusing on empowerment, digital transformation, and business growth through a variety of activities and mentor lectures. 

In the fifth installment of the National Leaders for Latinx Advancement Series, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann sat down with Rosario and Felipe to discuss the incubator program and how Latino businesses can grow post-pandemic. 

The pandemic push that launched their dream 

Brooklyn2Bogota leaders Rosario B. Casas and husband Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

The husband-and-wife duo first began envisioning Brooklyn2Bogota sometime in 2015. At the time they were living in New York City and Felipe was working as a diplomat for the community. Together, they began wondering how else they could help the Hispanic community, especially immigrants. They wanted to help the community in other ways, aside from the legal work Felipe was already doing at the time. 

As an entrepreneur, Rosario began imagining ways to help Latino business owners and entrepreneurs succeed and grow their businesses and soon the seeds for Brooklyn2Bogota were planted. She quickly began reserving the name ‘Brooklyn2Bogota’ across various sites and platforms with her early vision in mind. Over time, Rosario and Felipe continued to develop this idea of an incubator program that would nurture entrepreneurs and small business owners on their journeys. 

“We had planned to launch more or less for 2022,” said Rosario. “But then the pandemic happened, the crisis happened, and we knew we had to launch early. The pilot plan was launching the first cohort. Today we are in the third cohort.” 

The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners, especially in minority populations such as the Latino community. In the past year since Brooklyn2Bogota’s lauch, three cohorts have provided resources, assistance, and mentorships to Latino entrepreneurs and business owners. Covid-19 brought many things into focus, such as the impact of technology in our lives and the importance of community and working together. 

“When you speak of unity, you have to understand the numbers and the power that we have,” said Felipe, speaking about the vast and growing Latino population in the US. “Hispanics are now almost 25 percent of the population of the United States.” 

As such a large population, the Hispanic community has the potential to impact the economy and the country’s businesses. However, for too long, minority communities have struggled to gain the resources and knowledge necessary for success and growth. This is where Rosario and Felipe stepped up to help through Brooklyn2Bogota’s programs. 

Closing the digital divide for Latino businesses post-Covid 

Brooklyn2Bogota’s program is based on three fundamental pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth. As a tech entrepreneur, Rosario understands the importance of technology when it comes to running a business. Since the pandemic, the digital divide has become more obvious. Many business owners struggled to shift online during the pandemic and their businesses suffered. Rosario and Felipe want to close that divide so that every entrepreneur may succeed. 

The incubator program focuses on helping non-tech entrepreneurs and business owners who are unfamiliar with the world of tech. They offer information, resources, and mentorship to accelerate and promote digital learning. 

Many past videos of lectures and mentor sessions available online for free and the information is delivered in Spanish. This was important to Rosario and Felipe, since language barrier is often a barrier for knowledge. There is a plethora of resources in English but not as much in Spanish for Latino business owners and entrepreneurs, the couple explained. Many Latinos also prefer to learn in their native language, especially when the concepts are new or complicated. 

women-in-tech

Rosario at TEDxTalk. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

In the 10-week cohort entrepreneurs receive theoretical sessions and panels of specialized topics, dictated by carefully selected mentors. Focusing on the three pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth participants work to accelerate their growth in digital world post-COVID. The thematic mentoring sessions between members and participants provides them expert knowledge and guidance as they move through the program. 

You might be interested: Rosario B. Casas shares how the pandemic has accelerated technology and tech trends to keep an eye on

Finally, the program provides participants with a private network that brings together the mentors and participants who complete the program. This network allows for further connection, collaboration, and exchange of ideas in the future and continued growth for entrepreneurs and business owners. 

The fourth cohort is tentatively set to begin in April 2022. For more information and to apply, visit Brooklyn2Bogota.com

How to still apply for Covid-19 Business Tax Credits ending Sept. 30

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 has provided businesses with various relief efforts. Now, several of these programs are coming to an end September 30, however there is still time for business owners to reap the benefits of the Covid-19 business tax credits before they end. 

Qualifying for Covid-19 business tax credit 

The Covid-19 business tax credits for small businesses provide businesses with dollar-for-dollar reimbursements that employers can use to provide paid sick leave to employees who cannot work due to Covid-19. These tax credits only cover paid leave between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, but those who have not yet filed can do so before October 31, 2021. To receive the tax credit, employers should file Form 941, the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,  available on the IRS site. Qualifying businesses that file this form before October 31 will be able to claim credit for the year’s third quarter– July through September. 

A blog post by Rocket Lawyer –a free legal information and consulting site– details the various qualifications for applying along with additional information and legal advising about accessing Covid-19 business tax credits. 

To qualify for the business tax credits, businesses must have fewer than 500 employees. To use the credit, employees’ absence or inability to work must be for reasons related to Covid-19 between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. These reasons including:  

  • Leave taken to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Leave to recover from any illness or condition related to the vaccination.
  • Contracting COVID-19.
  • Caring for family members who have contracted COVID-19.
  • Quarantine periods related to COVID-19.
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and attempting to get a medical diagnosis or test result.

The credit covers both paid sick leave wages and paid family leave wages up to a certain amount. For paid sick leave wages, the credit covers up to two weeks of leave, up to $511 per day and $5,110 total. For paid family leave wages, the credit covers up to 12 weeks, up to $200 per day and $12,000 total. 

Self-employed individuals may also qualify. For additional details and guidelines visit the IRS.gov

Additional relief resources for small businesses 

While the Covid-19 business tax credits may be ending, there are still many resources for small businesses seeking relief. The Small Business Administration provides information for many COVID-19 relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program,  COVID-19 EIDEL, Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and more. 

You may be interested: NJEDA announces Henri and Ida relief grant to support recovery for small businesses 

capital access, lban

Don’t miss this Free Resources for Small Businesses Webinar! 

Don’t miss the next session of the Latino Business Action Network (LBAN)  virtual 6-part series supported by Bank of America, “Resources That Matter for Latinx Entrepreneurs During These Times of Uncertainty.” The 6 part series is designed for entrepreneurs and key members of their team and covers important topics such as economic market forecast, capital access, customer acquisition, resource building, and networking. 

capital access

Resources That Matter: Session 3: All about capital Part 2

The next FREE webinar will stream on Thurs, June 24 at 1pm PST / 4pm EST. This upcoming session is a continuation of last month’s conversation on capital access and financial resources. 

Register Now! Session 3: Capital Access Part 2 – June 24th 

What is the impact of not having a banker?

“‘Have a banker before you need a banker’ is one of the best pieces of advice as it relates to capital,” LBAN says. “Capital is a key component in a company’s ability to scale. Unfortunately, not having an established lender is one of the barriers to accessing capital. In addition, we know that Latino-owned businesses are less likely to get their funding needs to be met. The research findings in Ongoing Impact of COVID-19 on Latino-owned Businesses found that 17% of Latino-owned businesses reported that they lacked an established banking provider that prevented them from accessing Round 1 of PPP funding in 2020.” 

This series will help you learn first hand from lenders about how to identify quality bankers and how to continuously engage with them in a way that builds a strong relationship, ensuring the best opportunity for your capital needs. In addition, participants will learn how to structure a one-page funding request, describing their company, their capital needs, and their deployment strategy. 

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to gain crucial capital insights and knowledge to help your business grow and propel you forward in 2021 and beyond. 

You might be interested: Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

Latino Business Action Network

LBAN presents: “Resources That Matter: All about capital”

Don’t miss the next session of the Latino Business Action Network (LBAN)  virtual 6-part series supported by Bank of America, “Resources that Matter.” The series covers important topics such as economic market forecast, capital access, customer acquisition, resource building, and networking. 

Latino Business Action Network

Next virtual session May 27, from 1 PM – 2:30 PM PST. (Graphic courtesy LBAN).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Latino-owned businesses used resilience, creativity, and innovation to survive. Today, the US economy is rebounding and experts are projecting an 8% growth in GDP.  What does that mean for small businesses? It means that small businesses can and should grow in 2021!

Access to capital is a critical component for growth.  We know there are existing barriers to accessing capital. The 2020 Ongoing Impact of COVID-19 on Latino-owned Business report identified a lack of banking relationship, and a lack of required application materials accounted for 39% of the barriers to accessing PPP.

Latino Business Action Network is committed to breaking down those barriers. Join two free webinars to learn the capital resources that will position you for future growth.  In these webinars you will understand the capital landscape, the types of products applicable for your company, how to leverage technology to ensure proper financial documentation, how to build a relationship with a lender, and how to create a one-pager for your company.  In addition, you will have the opportunity to network with growth-minded business owners from across the country.

You might be interested: Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

The 6-part series is designed for entrepreneurs and key members of their team. From this series, you will hear from industry leaders, learn about essential resources, capital education, network with other growth-minded entrepreneurs, and you will inherit a growth perspective that will propel you in 2021 and beyond. 

Mark your calendar for May 27th at 1 pm PST and June 8th at 1 pm PST to gain the capital tools and resources so that you are best prepared for accessing capital and positioned for growth.  

Latino Business Action Network

Register today for the next virtual session!

Latino Business Action Network (LBAN)

The Latino Business Action Network (LBAN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the United States by empowering Latino business leaders to grow substantial firms that create jobs. Our goal to double the number of $10+ million, $100+ million, $1+ billion Latino-owned businesses in the U.S.by 2025. LBAN collaborates with Stanford University to champion the Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative (SLEI).

restaurant, covid-19 worker

Applications for the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund are now open

The Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund is now accepting applications. This program will provide emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19.

restaurant, covid-19 worker, businesses impacted by COVID-19, RRF

Photo by dapiki moto on Unsplash

About the Restaurant Revitalization Fund 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, small businesses have been impacted the most, with many facing tremendous losses in revenue and others forced to shut down. Of these businesses, restaurants and food establishments have been hit the hardest, as Covid-19 safety restrictions have limited business flow. 

Under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) has been established to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses recover from pandemic-related losses and stay open. The program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

Applications for the RRF are now open as of May 3, 2021. Apply now!

Who can apply? 

Eligible businesses who have experienced pandemic-related revenue loss as listed on the SBA site include: 

  • Restaurants
  • Food stands, food trucks, food carts
  • Caterers
  • Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
  • Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
  • Bakeries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Breweries and/or microbreweries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Wineries and distilleries (onsite sales to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Inns (onsite sales of food and beverage to the public comprise at least 33% of gross receipts)
  • Licensed facilities or premises of a beverage alcohol producer where the public may taste, sample, or purchase products

How to apply? 

All eligible businesses can apply directly though the SBA’s application portal: https://restaurants.sba.gov or through SBA-recognized Point of Sale (POS) vendors. Participating POS providers include: Square, Toast, Clover, NCR Corporation (Aloha), and Oracle. 

If you need assistance preparing your application, check out the following resources: 

 Watch a Webinar: Learn how to apply for RRF

RRF Application Dates

Priority Period 

Applications open today at noon, Monday May 3, 2021. Throughout the first 21 days from the opening of the Application portal, the SBA will accept applications from all eligible applicants, but only process and fund priority group applications.

Priority groups are defined as a small business that is at least 51% owned by one or more individuals who are: women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged. 

Socially and economically disadvantaged individuals are those “who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities…and whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities as compared to others in the same business area.” 

You might be interested: NJEDA & digitalundivided showcase resources for Black & Latino Entrepreneurs

Open to All 

From days 22 through funds exhaustion the SBA will accept applications from all eligible applicants and process applications in the order in which they are approved by SBA.

How funds can be used

Funds may be used for specific expenses including:

  • Business payroll costs (including sick leave)
  • Payments on any business mortgage obligation
  • Business rent payments (note: this does not include prepayment of rent)
  • Business debt service (both principal and interest; note: this does not include any prepayment of principal or interest)
  • Business utility payments
  • Business maintenance expenses
  • Construction of outdoor seating
  • Business supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials)
  • Business food and beverage expenses (including raw materials)
  • Covered supplier costs
  • Business operating expenses

For more information, access to forms and other specifications visit: sba.gov 

Grow with Google: Lucy Pinto discusses digital tools, trends, and resources for small businesses 

A report conducted by Grow with Google in partnership with the Connected Commerce Council found that since the pandemic began, 72% of Latino businesses are now using digital tools to reach customers online and keep their businesses open. 

Post-Covid Recovery: Trends in technology and digital tools 

Since the pandemic hit in March of last year, the impact on small businesses has been tremendous. Across the country, small businesses have struggled to stay afloat as restrictions continue to disrupt their business flow. Some of the small businesses that have been hit the hardest are minority-owned small businesses. 

During Latina in Business’ March virtual panel, “Latina Small Business Post-Covid: Recovery Resources and Trends,” panelists discussed how the pandemic has shifted our relationship with technology. Now more than ever, businesses are relying on digital tools to connect with customers, grow, and thrive. Lucy Pinto, who is the Manager of Diversity and Community Training programs for Google joined the conversation, sharing insights and resources on digital tools for small businesses. 

As the Grow with Google Program Manager, Lucy works to level the playing field for communities who face digital divides and barriers to digital resources. She manages the Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program which delivers free digital skills training for U.S. Black & Latino small businesses. 

Lucy Pinto shares digital trends and resources 

Lucy Pinto, Grow with Google Program Manager.

Pilar Avila, Latinas in Business Board Member and Chair of Finances and Governance, moderated the virtual panel. Below are some highlights from her conversation with Lucy Pinto on how small businesses can utilize digital tools, such as the Grow with Google program to help their businesses thrive. 

Pilar Avila  4:09  

So Lucy, access to technology. Digital Access has been, before, during and post pandemic critical for the growth of businesses. However, in many communities, many families, we have seen that the digital divide, and the lack of access to resources…has been accentuated with a pandemic. However, we know that you at Google are addressing exactly those challenges through your program Grow with Google Digital Coaches. Can you tell us about the program and the impact that it’s having as well as any growth trends that you’re identifying through the program, or any other services and programs at Google?

Lucy Pinto  5:45  

Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much for that. And thank you for the opportunity to be here….So Grow with Google is really Google’s initiative to provide digital skills training to Americans across all states. And so, as part of that initiative, one of our main focuses is to really focus on small business communities because we know that small businesses are the backbone of the country. And when you get a little bit more granular, what we do know, as data will show is that the rate at which Black and Latino businesses in the country are growing far extends those of other peers. And so we know that Black and Latino businesses, Latina businesses, as well, are fueling new business growth in the country.

And so in 2017, as part of an effort to help those businesses, those new Latino businesses that are launching and growing, we developed a program called the Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program to specifically cater and reach small businesses that are Black-owned, or Latino-owned. And through the Digital Coaches Program, we provide free digital skills training and coaching to help these small businesses grow and thrive online. And since 2017, we have actually helped train over 60,000 small business owners, where we have digital coaches.

Our coaches deliver workshops in English and Spanish as well, because we know that sometimes they’re you know, in these communities, especially, you have a lot of immigrant communities that come in, you know, they’re starting their businesses, they’re launching, and sometimes they prefer to get information in Spanish. And so we want to make sure that we’re not leaving anybody behind. And we have, we have those workshops in Spanish as well. 

When COVID hit, we really had to pivot our own program plan, because all of these trainings and programs were done in person. And so when COVID hit we pivoted to virtual and that April, I remember last April, we saw such a tremendous interest in learning about these digital tools. So much so that as a Grow with Google team, we ended up partnering with the Connected Commerce Council to lead a report on what are the trends that we’re seeing during COVID? What are our small businesses doing? How are they feeling? How are they thinking? And as part of that report, we actually found some very interesting facts, very specific to Latino small businesses.

You might be interested: Latina Leaders share small business post-Covid recovery resources 

Key findings from the report 

  • Since the pandemic began, a large percentage of Latino small businesses are relying on digital tools as a safety net. 
  • 32% of Latino small businesses have been forced to close because of COVID. That’s 1 in every 3. 
  • 72% of Latino businesses (compared to 60% percent of the general public) adopted Google tools and digital tools to reach customers online, to update their customers, and to expand their reach and stay open.

How to grow your business with Google

Grow with Google Digital Coaches Program delivers free digital skills training for U.S. Black & Latino small businesses. The program has trained over 60,000 businesses on digital tools and works on initiatives that invest in communities that are underrepresented online to untap their potential, help them succeed, and drive bottom line impact. As our world becomes increasingly more digital, these skills and tools will be vital to business growth and success so be sure to take advantage of these free resources. 

Additionally, the Grow with Google Small Business Fund through the Opportunity Finance Network provides financial support to minority-owned and women-owned small businesses. The Fund will allow community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to support both the short-term recovery and long-term financing needs of America’s small businesses by providing low-cost, fixed-rate loans of up to 10-years with an option for interest deferral. 

Since the fund launched it has distributed $90 million in funding to businesses across the US through the local CDFIs and there is still $80 million left to deploy. 

For more information on the fund visit the Opportunity Finance Network.