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Through this series, we examine the disproportionate financial toll of COVID-19 on Black and Latino communities, including how it has affected individuals, families and businesses.

How One Charlotte Entrepreneur Used COVID-19 To Reinvent Her Business

Maria Ramirez Uribe
Sussa Goins shut one business down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but just a few months later she opened a new one.

Está historia está disponible en español en La Noticia

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, Sussa Goins soon realized her business would not survive. She had started her Charlotte catering company, The Traveling Bistro in 2018, and was already struggling to keep it afloat.

“It was actually kind of hard for me to be successful with the Traveling Bistro,” Goins said. “I stayed in business, but it wasn't a profitable business, to be honest.”

Income was inconsistent. She says she could go from making a couple of thousand dollars on a wedding one month to a couple hundred at parties every few weeks.

And the instability only got worse when COVID-19 arrived in North Carolina and events stopped.

Goins says it was the application for a Paycheck Protection Program loan last spring that made her realize her business was unsustainable.

“When I went to my schedule C to see how much money I could get, it was negative. So that's how bad it was, unfortunately,” Goins said. “But it was good because I realized that it wasn't a sustainable business, and I just have to move on.”

She spent the next couple of months trying to decide what to do next.

Goins had been baking gluten-free bread for her family for years because of her son’s allergies. She thought maybe she could sell that. So, in June, she started selling the bread to people she knew. She sold 100 loaves in the first month.

Courtesy of Sussa Goins
Sussa Goins had been baking gluten-free bread for years due to her son’s allergies. So when she closed her catering business during the pandemic she started selling the bread to her friends. She sold 100 loaves in one month.

“I realized that I have something that is very powerful. And the power you have in the kitchen to help others is amazing. And that's something that I’ve always had a passion for, to help others,” Goins said. “And so for me, this was a combination of my two passions, just helping others and making great food.”

Taking what she had learned from her catering business, Goins started working on launching a new one.

She took out a loan and some of her savings and transformed part of her laundry room into a small industrial kitchen. From there, she continued selling her bread and coming up with new recipes.

In October, she launched Eleven Eleven Wellness Bakery and started selling her products online, at farmer’s markets and at three stores in Mecklenburg County.

“It's exciting, overwhelming, tiring — I don't know," Goins said. "It's like a mix of feelings, to be honest.”

By early May, Goins said, she’d fulfilled more than 600 online orders.

“I feel super accomplished — like very accomplished knowing that finally, my efforts paid off and that so many years of trying to do something with my hands, with what I love, I’m doing it and I'm supporting my family," Goins said. "And that's amazing.”

In some ways, she says she has the pandemic to thank for that.

“Definitely the pandemic was an opportunity for me first to realize that what I was doing wasn't the right path,” Goins said. “It definitely was the time that I needed to develop a business that is sustainable, that is going to be profitable, that is supporting my family and it’s been a blessing.”

Goins speaks with pride calling herself an entrepreneur and businesswoman. Now her goal is to expand outside her former laundry room and eventually hire employees.

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Maria Ramirez Uribe is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte.