PHOENIX — Since the pandemic hit, many businesses have suffered, especially small local businesses.
Many small vendors, especially in the Latinx community are coming together to help each other stay afloat.
Organizer Jorge Mejia has put together an event called Cultivo Mercado with dozens of vendors. His vision was a market where small Latinx-owned businesses could come together and show off their goods and services.
Mejia said, "I started supporting all these businesses, which were local, you know, sourcing from local places, other businesses, and I thought that was a really cool, sustainable idea."
He was inspired by reflecting on the community he grew up in, saying, "I wanted to share my culture. First of all, I wanted to...provide a voice for them because we're not what people think we are. We're contributors, you know, we work hard. Some of us have two jobs."
With that conviction and support from business owners, he started organizing pop-up events.
One event in early March drew roughly 100 customers. Reflecting on that event he said, "It's really cool, it really worked out. And so we were all excited because it was gonna be like a really cool thing. And then, you know, this happened."
The coronavirus pandemic essentially shut down his planned events and saw the toll it took on the small business owners who depended on those pop-up shopping events.
"A lot of the vendors were relying on Instagram, on just social media in general, so that they can make that next sale, and I think we can make, you know, substantiate what they were making before because now we can't go out, you know, so yeah, it's, it's, it was a struggle for them," Mejia said.
According to the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, out of about 500,000 small businesses in Arizona, 125,000 are Latinx-owned. Those businesses contribute roughly $14 billion to the Arizona economy. That includes Imagine Threads, owned by Cesar Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said his business started as a school project for a class while completing his Bachelor's degree. He said, "You know, so I just became the creative designer behind the line Imagine Threads itself, started doing small events. Started doing First Fridays and things like that."
He got connected with Mejia and felt right at home at the events.
"The people are extremely friendly all the people that are there, you know, whether it be vendors or, you know, just the people themselves. You know, it's a lot of love and it's a very special event to go to. I would say because you just feel like part of something, especially in Mexican culture. I feel like we don't do enough of those types of events nowadays, especially in Arizona," Rodriguez commented.
The next event called "Cultivo Mercado" is slated for Saturday, Aug. 15th near 16th and Roosevelt streets. It will be held indoors with air conditioning and dozens of businesses are listed.
Mejia says all CDC guidelines will be enforced, with a mask requirement, six-feet social distancing and handwashing stations.
"It's a new normal. But that doesn't have doesn't mean that we need to stop doing what we were doing before. We just need to change it and upgraded it. So that's what I did with the mercado," Mejia concludes.