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Duke Energy gifts $100,000 to support S.C. businesses

Banking & Finance
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One recepient of a CommunityWorks micro-grant, Andres Camargo of Unlocked Coffee Roasters, was set to open his shop the week nonessential businesses were closed across the state.  (Photo/Provided)This New Year will see many Upstate small businesses shuttered for longer than the typical holiday stint.

Recognizing that local businesses are in growing need of financial and coaching support, Duke Energy recently donated $100,000 to SBA lender and nonprofit CommunityWorks to aid its small-business relief efforts.

The gift piggybacks on Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s donation last week, a portion of $4.2 billion distributed among 384 national organizations.

“Small businesses are the economic backbone of communities across South Carolina, and their success is our success,” Mike Callahan, state president for Duke Energy in South Carolina, said in a news release. “Duke Energy is a large company, but everything we do is local. That’s why we understand how important it is that these businesses not only survive but thrive.”

The donation will be directed toward businesses in Duke’s service areas within the Upstate and Pee Dee Regions.

“The generous support of partners like Duke Energy allows us to continue fighting for the wellbeing of our small business clients,” Tammie Hoy Hawkins, CEO of CommunityWorks, said in the release. “We are eager to expand our reach with the help of this gift. CommmunityWorks continues to find ways to expand lending and coaching opportunities, striving to remain a soft spot for struggling small businesses to land in today’s economic crisis.”

Greenville’s Unlocked Coffee Roasters, one business to benefit from CommunityWork’s financial support, was set to open the week South Carolina closed the doors of restaurants across the state last spring. The Colombian coffee café, owned by Andres Camargo and Rocio Salazar, survived by offering curbside pick-up and sales by the bag, fortified by startup microloans and coaching from CommunityWorks.

“CommunityWorks always shows interest and helps and tells the truth. It doesn’t feel like you’re working with a big bank,” Camargo said in the release. “They have the perspective of a lender that cares for your needs.”

As the only restaurant in the Florence Regional Airport, Lil Jazzi’s Café’s sales plummeted with the restriction of air travel in the spring.

With a microloan from CommuntiyWorks, Adrena Mullins, owner of the café, was able to invest in an expansion of her vending machine serves after she had to shutter her airport café.

Mullins hopes to return to the airport once air travel picks back up, but for now, she has a new venture on her plate. With revenue from her vending machine services, she plans to open her café in a storefront property in downtown Florence in 2021, according to the release.

The café owner had always held on to the dream of entrepreneurship, and despite the hardships for small-business and restaurant owners brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, she has no plans for throwing in the towel.

 “I worked at Target for 16 years, but I always wanted to own by own business,” she said in the release. “I never imagined I’d be in the restaurant industry, but people keep coming back for the food.”

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