My Founder Story Micro Grant Program Launches to Support Women-Owned Businesses During the COVID Crisis

By Chris Olsen

This month, in response to the global health crisis, My Founder Story is partnering with BankCherokee to launch Fueled by Purpose micro grants. Every week through June, we will award a $500 grant to a female-founded small business in need.

These are tough times for small business owners everywhere. The majority of brick-and-mortar businesses are currently closed while online businesses struggle to stay afloat. Analysts predict our country is on the verge of the biggest recession in its history. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and numerous organizations are working to provide support to businesses, but the reality is that many companies have already gone under. While there is no way of knowing for certain what the future holds, it’s important to stay grounded in reality.

Tina Rexing, founder of T-Rex Cookie Kitchen in Eagan, Minnesota, said what many shop owners have been thinking about the state of small business ownership in America: “The SBA program is not a lifeboat. It’s not even a life raft. The SBA program is a pool noodle. Small businesses that are waiting for the government to bail them out are going to be floating in the middle of the ocean with a pool noodle. I’ll take the noodle if they’ll give it to me, but at the end of the day, I need to learn how to swim on dry land.”

What does learning to swim on dry land look like? For Tina, it has meant taking a step back to review her business model—not just to get her through the immediate crisis, but to set herself up for a better future. For example, one area of focus for her business has been wholesale partnerships with restaurants and large event venues like U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which sold her giant cookies at concession stands. While it was steady income before the pandemic, it came to a halt when events were cancelled and venues closed. Tina’s business has more than one revenue stream, but moving forward, she says she’ll continue to diversify even more.

Other Minnesota-based food companies like Thumbs Cookies, founded by Robyn Frank, and Isadore Nut Co., founded by Tasya Kelen, are mastering the art of the pivot by collaborating to provide healthy snacks to frontline health care workers. For a $25 donation, a MN Snack Pack of goodies is delivered to busy hospital workers. The donation provides revenue that supports struggling small businesses while enabling them to use inventory that may have otherwise expired. In less than a month, they’ve fed nearly 4,000 workers.

Robyn and Tasya have something in common when it comes to navigating tough times in their businesses: They are fueled by purpose. Both have built their businesses on the foundation of giving back to the communities they serve, which has helped them make decisions about what to do moving forward. For business owners, there’s no magic formula for what to do next, but clarifying your purpose is a really great place to start.

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