OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — When Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering and Best Burger came to a shared dining space at The Highlander in January 2020, they had no idea what was on the horizon.
"We started before the pandemic not knowing that it would be a pandemic, said Ashlei Spivey, co-owner Best Burger. "We are still here today.
Both restaurants, like so many other small businesses, faced tough times through the pandemic. Leslie Pearce of financial tech company Fiserv said it's been an even greater challenge for businesses of color.
"Our minority business (and) small business owners really felt the impact of that more than anyone else," Pearce said.
It's an ongoing challenge they’re still facing by learning to adapt.
"We are still impacted by the pandemic from supply chain to staffing to inflation costs," Spivey said. "It really is an interesting time."
"We had to rethink how we get our food to people," said Gladys Harrison of Big Mama's Kitchen and Catering. "It really changed almost every facet of our business."
Both businesses have recently received a financial boost in the form of a grant that’s now available for ethnically diverse small businesses across Nebraska.
Called the Back2Business grant, the program is designed to give those eligible $10,000 to use towards improving their small business.
"We have pledged up to $1 million to Nebraska," Pearce said. "Any small diverse business owner who’s been in business since January 2021 we want to partner with them and give the infusion of cash."
Both Big Mama’s and Best Burger were nominated by the Omaha Chamber of Commerce to receive the grant. Best Burger is using it to focus on sustaining operations, while Big Mama’s is using the funding to put their signature sauce in area grocery stores.
Fiserv is also offering additional support with business operations and marketing.
"It’s such a great experience to have not only the funding but then also the services that we’re needing to survive at this time," Spivey said.
The grant is available for diverse small businesses with 10 or fewer employees that have been in business since January 2021. Funding has already been given out to 35 small businesses across the state.