Testimony of Joslyn Raquel Reese
On Behalf of FIT & NU™ and Minority Business Leaders
Colorado Senate Finance Committee
“Modify COVID-19 Relief Programs for Small Business”
January 13, 2021
Madam Chair and Members of the Committee, my name is Joslyn Raquel Reese and I am a proud member of Good Business Colorado and the Co-Founder of FIT & NU, Colorado’s first FITness and NUtrition club for women of color. Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and discuss the importance of SB21-001, Modify COVID-19 Relief Programs for Small Business. We would also like to thank Senator Fields for the work she is doing in our district to support minority business leaders like me. It is an honor to represent the voice of my fellow minority entrepreneurs in front of the members of this subcommittee and the distinguished panel of experts and advocates who are in attendance today.
Six years ago, my sister and I started FIT & NU by hosting classes in public parks, community centers, and local churches. We were driven by our passion for helping others and our mission to provide culturally informed, fitness and nutrition services to improve the lives and health of the women in our community who work tirelessly to support their families and make invaluable contributions to broader society. It has been an absolute dream come true to grow our business from its humble beginnings to what we have become today: a fully equipped boutique club that is not only positively impacting the health and wellness of hardworking women in our community, but employing, collaborating and contracting with state and local government agencies (like the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment), other small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
While we achieved these accomplishments through grit and determination, we could not have done this alone. Much of the success that my sister and I have enjoyed so far has been propelled by generous grants and services provided by local non-profit organizations who focus on supporting small, family-owned businesses like ours.
The importance of identifying and securing financial resources has been particularly instrumental to our business and cannot be understated. When we first started our business, these resources afforded us the ability to hire a talented team that implemented targeted marketing campaigns and supported critical business operations. Last year, these resources afforded us the additional time that we needed to develop a strategic plan in the midst of a global pandemic to pivot toward digital services and remain competitive during. They also helped us maintain our brick and mortar studio in Aurora, the city in which we were raised.
If these programs did not prioritize minority-owned businesses, we are not certain if FIT & NU would exist as we know it. Business leaders from historically marginalized groups represent 1 out of 5 firms in Colorado , yet we continue to face systematic barriers to capital . We witnessed the consequences of these longstanding barriers play out last summer, when thousands of minority-owned businesses experienced delayed access to PPP loans and were more likely to be denied entirely . Many minority-owned businesses went under as a consequence, particularly black-owned businesses . If we did not receive these earmarked funds last year, we easily could have been one the thousands of small businesses that were forced to shut their doors due to COVID-19. Without greater attention to these inequities, we know that many businesses like ours are still at risk and will not survive through the spring.
Given that minority business owners like us were largely underserved by federal relief programs last year, combined with the preponderance of data demonstrating the ongoing issues that present steep barriers to accessing capital, we are grateful that this Committee has wisely prioritized minority-owned businesses during this unprecedented time of uncertainty and economic upheaval. We urge this Committee to continue championing efforts that will eliminate longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in opportunities.
We sincerely hope our testimony affirms that these efforts, particularly the prioritization of minority-owned businesses like ours, can make a significant difference in reinvigorating the American Dream. Thank you again for the opportunity to share our story on the behalf of all minority-owned small businesses in Colorado.