The thought of the uncertainty and fear the COVID-19 pandemic introduced to Luz Cavazos’ life and livelihood still brings tears to her eyes.
The owner of Juicy Luzy Sangria poured her savings, heart and soul into her business when she opened its doors four years ago, and the pandemic threatened to take everything away.
Through creative solutions to setbacks, and with the help of Allies for Community Business as well as Cook County’s COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program, Cavazos weathered the storm.
When she had to cease wine tastings at her Oak Lawn-based business, could not sell her wine at canceled festivals and saw a drop in sales from restaurants that carried her sangria because of closed indoor dining, the impacts began to add up.
Then, when Cavazos heard about the Small Business Assistance Program and saw a link to apply for a grant through the program in an email, she decided to apply.
“Getting that email was a blessing,” she said. “I’m grateful for the grant we got, because if we wouldn’t have gotten it… it was literally just making it, not knowing how long you had.”
Cavazos used the grant money to catch up on bills and purchase supplies for her business. She switched her focus to online sales, shipping her various flavors of sangria and offering curbside pickup. She even offered sangria in tasting packages that people could take home.
“It’s been a very hard, difficult time, but I thank God we were able to get that grant,” Cavazos said. “Hopefully, with the next few months, things will get better, and we can get back to some type of normalcy.”
To prepare small businesses for future grant opportunities and to provide financial and educational resources, the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program invites small businesses to sign up for the Cook County – Chicago Business Advising Program, also known as technical assistance.
This program provides individualized assistance to business owners to help them address needs; acquire new capital and customers; understand finances, as well as change and risk management; adjust business models; and operate under changing safety regulations.
This assistance is provided by program partners like Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Allies for Community Business, Chicago Urban League, Women’s Business Development Center, Berwyn Development Corporation, Chicago TREND, Cook County Black Chamber Corporation and Southland Development Authority.
Cavazos said working with business consultants has been very helpful and informative, and she recommends them to anyone who has a small business or is interested in starting one.
“If they don’t know the answers, they will help you get the answers,” she said.
Cavazos recommended that small business owners search for and take advantage of free resources and information available to them.
“There are a lot of resources out there, but you have to put in the time and effort,” she said, adding that she is proud of herself for doing her homework over the years to learn about how to run her business, accomplish sales and place her sangria in stores.
“I make our sangria from the heart,” Cavazos said. “It’s the same recipe I’ve made at home for my family. It’s made with a lot of love. We don’t use a lot of sugar. You’re going to get the balance of the wine with a hint of the fruit juices but not something that’s too overpowering.
For more information about Juicy Luzy Sangria and to browse its sangria varieties, visit www.juicyluzysangria.com.