Small businesses are the backbone of American commerce, but many owners face significant roadblocks as they navigate their industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last 25 years, 31% of new employers closed during their first three years of being open, while 46% of new employers closed during their first five years.
Ron Holloway, co-owner of Woofbowl, a food truck business that specializes in nutrient-dense meals for dogs, faced adversity numerous times in his life.
Ron was raised by a single mother and grew up in an area of inner-city Milwaukee that incarcerates the highest percentage of Black men in America. After serving in the U.S. Navy and training over 10,000 personnel, Holloway faced the additional challenge of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dogs helped him navigate that difficult period in his life, and together with his wife, they started a business that allowed customers to better care for their canines. Their food truck is currently based in Los Angeles.
“We hear so many stories from our customers, fans and followers about how we have been a light in their lives or have brought joy in some of the toughest times,” Holloway explained. “People have done wedding proposals with us and even had BarkDays (dog birthdays) with us. They’ve truly become an extended family.”
While success continues to follow Woofbowl, it has not been without setbacks. The Holloways entrusted a contractor with their life savings to customize the interior of their truck and before completing the project, the contractor filed for bankruptcy and they have yet to recover any funds.
On top of a six-figure starting deficit, Woofbowl dealt with unparalleled challenges from the pandemic. During the first few weeks of the pandemic, their sales dropped close to 90%. However, due to community support and reassurances of their COVID-19 safety protocols, they were able to pivot and regain their sales.
“During the pandemic, we were able to make people feel, and that's something money can’t buy. That's nothing I can deliver in a package or in a box, and it allowed us to develop a real relationship with our consumers,” Holloway said.
Many small businesses are at the heart of a community, and owners work to foster genuine relationships with customers while also striving to maintain and grow their capital. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB) – a multi-year initiative founded in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, American Express, and four leading national Black business organizations – provides such opportunities for success. Since launch, the CBBB has distributed $5,000 grants to more than 1,000 Black small business owners across the country and continues to offer resources to help business owners thrive.
“The support from the grant was a lifesaver,” Holloway said. “As an entrepreneur, every dollar is lifesaving. It's the first grant we’ve ever received, and we were almost in tears because it meant so much to have that kind of support.”