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Hispanic and Latino business owners are trying to keep their doors open

A recent report shows the pandemic has been especially difficult for business owners from diverse backgrounds.

BUFFALO, New York — Soda Kuczkowski is in the business of sleep. In addition to her seminars, Kuczkowski owned a brick and mortar shop on Hertel Avenue for hosting consultations. A part of the space was also used for retail purposes. Her operations slowed down significantly as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"I was doing a ton of live seminars so when the pandemic happened a lot of those were initially were canceled. A lot of conferences locally were canceled," she told 2 On your side's Karys Belger.

Like many others, Kuzkowski shut down her shop and began to work remotely. She recently reopening her shop, but her working hours have been limited. 

"I have a 6-year-old daughter, so when she switched to the hybrid model. It was my responsibility to be with her five days a week."

Kuczkowski told 2 On Your Side, her husband's work is considered essential and she's worked with his schedule to make sure they're both able to help with her daughter. For her, this means less time in her shop. 

"Quite honestly, it’s only three hours on Friday and four hours on Saturday. It’s seven days a week. It’s not a lot."

What's helped is her ability to occasionally take on remote clients in different cities in both the United States and other parts of the world. The time changes allow her to work when her daughter is asleep. Kuczkowski said, she continued to pay rent for her space as if it was operating but did not apply for any assistance for her businesses because she did not meet the qualifications for most of the loans. 

She also says she has money put away in case of an emergency, but she's aware of other Hispanic-owned businesses in the area that were not so lucky. She says the women entrepreneurs she knows are having an especially hard time.

"I can honestly say that the majority of the women-owned Hispanic businesses. I know of one that, she already closed, she had to close, two or three months into the pandemic."

This trend is also happening across the country. A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research says the number of Latinx small-business owners has decreased from 32 percent to 28 percent during the pandemic. The report specifically discusses the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on communities of color. 

Kuczkowski told 2 On Your Side the key to making sure revenue continues to come in is to find innovative ways to make things work. She's not the only one who is finding new ways to make things work. 

Jonathan Vargas is the manager at Taqueria Ranchos La Delicias on Niagara Street. Vargas said the restaurant has been following the guidelines set by the state. Using delivery apps has helped keep them afloat. 

"We just have to follow the guidelines you know and just see what we can and cannot do," Vargas said.

The restaurant is currently operating at half-capacity, complete with caution tape on the booths to enforce social distancing. Opening the patio and doing delivery in addition to the food truck helped during the summer, but with winter there’s still a concern. 

In the meantime, there’re limits to staff schedules and gloves at the salsa bar. And like Kuczkowski, Vargas is hoping to see more improvement as he learns to navigate the changes.