Wells Fargo Awards StartUP FIU Food Grant to Help Local Food Entrepreneurs Recover From Pandemic

This week, Wells Fargo awarded an Open for Business Fund grant to Florida International University (FIU) to launch a robust, virtual platform at StartUP FIU Food, a small business incubator that serves food and beverage micro-entrepreneurs in South Florida.

The $750,000 grant is projected to offer online resources to more than 1,000 small businesses to help them recover and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small business owners who currently participate in StartUP FIU Food have access to state-of-the-art kitchens and facilities at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, as well as the expertise of food scientists and mentors, who advise on product development, strategy, financials, e-commerce, and more. Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund grant will help StartUP FIU Food formalize and expand these counseling and technical assistance resources into a virtual platform that will become a permanent facet of its programming.

“The pandemic has permanently shifted the consumer paradigm,” said Emily Gresham, FIU’s assistant vice president for Research & Economic Development and cofounder of StartUP FIU. “There is no return to business as usual, and we have to help these microbusinesses — most with less than four employees — adjust to a new normal with very little resources. I am so grateful to Wells Fargo for trusting us to help our most vulnerable small business owners recover and become more resilient.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, StartUP FIU Food recognized that in addition to offering resources online, it had to expand its support beyond its incubator companies. As South Florida restaurants and food and beverage businesses were reeling from the economic effects of the pandemic, seeing revenue decline between 30 percent and 50 percent, StartUP FIU Food began offering online course modules teaching businesses to pivot by leveraging e- commerce, utilizing third-party delivery services and other measures to slow drastic losses in sales.

“Entrepreneurs across South Florida are critical to economic growth, including the wide variety of food microbusinesses in Miami’s diverse neighborhoods,” said Wells Fargo’s Vice Chairman of Public Affairs Bill Daley. “FIU is an anchor institution in the community, a trusted expert that local entrepreneurs can turn to as a way to stabilize and grow their business. With its new virtual platform, StartUP FIU Food can significantly expand the number of local businesses that will benefit.”

The grant is one of several Open for Business Fund grants Wells Fargo has awarded in Florida to support small businesses. The Open for Business Fund is a roughly $420 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover and rebuild. The initiative focuses on three key areas: increasing access to capital through CDFIs, technical assistance, and long-term recovery and resiliency programs.

“As we look ahead to recover, restore, and rebound our economy from the pandemic, we have a critical opportunity to build back stronger by supporting the businesses that were among the hardest hit — especially those in food and beverage and hospitality,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “Miami-Dade’s economy runs thanks to small businesses, and I’m thankful to FIU and Wells Fargo for standing up for our community and supporting local entrepreneurs when they need it most.”

This grant is part of FIU’s Next Horizon campaign, which is advancing student success and research excellence at the university.

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