San Jose small businesses look to bounce back as COVID restrictions loosen

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As the state continues to roll back COVID-19 restrictions, San Jose small businesses are looking to bounce back from a year unlike any other. 

Over the last year, San Jose small businesses received financial support from the state and local government to help keep as many businesses open as possible. 

“Wow, what a year,” said Jennifer Echeverri, owner of Habana Cuba located in the SoFA Market in downtown San Jose. 

“Right now we are open 100% and we’ve seen a lot of new people walk in and out, some with masks some without, I think some people are still on that borderline.” 

Restaurants like Habana Cuba rely heavily on the foot traffic from San Jose State students, office workers, and tourists year-round to keep things running. 

Echeverri tells KRON4 News she commends the city’s efforts to help small businesses during the pandmeic, including extending the Al Fresco program allowing businesses to safely operate outdoors, through the end of the year. 

“Now I’m excited, I’m getting all these catering jobs,” said Echeverri. 

“I was able to hire, I had to let people go a year ago, like 15, 16 months ago, now i’m trying to get them back.”

Many restaurants say initiatives like the Al Fresco program helped boost their revenue in order to be able to remain open. 

But despite criticism over the city’s slow planning process to help struggling small businesses, a 2020 analysis released by small business funder Biz2Credit gave San Jose the top spot for the smallest business-friendly city in the nation. 

“I think there’s a lot of that innovation story that has yet to be told and also a lot of that has yet to be written as folks still continue to innovate and adjust,” said Derrick Seaver, chief executive officer of the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO).

“It was 10 years of economic development crushed into six months.”

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who represents approximately 400 businesses in the region, is launching its 100 Startups initiative to support female entrepreneurs of color through funding, providing resources, and corporate partnerships. 

The organization’s vice president of business development, Pedro David Espinoza says there is much optimism among local founders and entrepreneurs to capitalize as the economy begins to recover. 

“San Jose is known as the capital of Silicon Valley and there’s that resiliency especially if you look at the immigrants, the Hispanics, and the people of color,” said Espinoza. 

“And now that California is loosening the restrictions for COVID-19 we need to take advantage of this open business and explore and continue expanding,” Espinoza added. 

“Because it’s entrepreneurship that fuels innovation, it’s inclusion that fuels entrepreneurship.”

Local government leaders have also stepped in to help San Jose’s small businesses. 

Councilmember Raul Peralez requested City Council for $1M in funds to help small business with reopening as the state’s COVID-19 restrictions loosen. 

For small business in East San Jose, Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco introduced the East San Jose Rescue Plan along with Planning Commissioner Rolando Bonilla starting a fund with his own money to help small businesses.

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