No one knows how many of the 24 million small businesses in the United States have closed, but the number, when tallied, is likely to surpass one million. But some tiny companies have turned a corner and head into the rest of 2021 shaken and changed, but alive. Times of E reached out to incubators across the United States, who connected us to entrepreneurs whose companies survived. Ten entrepreneurs shared their stories with us. You can find others in the series at Rest of the US. Thanks to gener8tor, Arlee Community Development Corp., E For All and Arrowhead.
JR Rosillo launched Minerva Robotics in May, right in the heat of the pandemic. The company creates authentic tortillas through robots, which keeps production costs low while also increasing the quality of tortillas available, he wrote. Hand-made tortillas taste better, the founders say, but was too expensive to produce. Their company is selling tortilla box subscriptions to restaurants and chefs, according Minerva’s web site.
The challenges of 2020 for the San Francisco-based company were about building. First, co-founders JR Rosillo and Fernando Nuñez built their tortilla making-robot at home, in different locations. Additionally, the team had to start their family and friends rounds over Zoom calls. Rosillo said they’re not releasing the amount they’ve raised in family and friends round yet because it’s still ongoing.
“[The Pandemic] forced us to rethink how we worked utterly,” Rosillo wrote. “Our team has never been in the same physical location at the same time.”
Rosillo said a major breakthrough to navigating these challenges came when he became a fellow at On Deck, a program that connects entrepreneurs and mentors, in October. The program “replicated the serendipity of being in the Bay Area” by creating a virtual community of entrepreneurs and creators to learn from and bounce ideas off of, he said.
The company has three employees. It plans to start selling their product to customers in the summer.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.