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Charlotte minority-owned businesses getting help from an unlikely source

Andarrio Johnson started his business sixteen years ago and says this year has been the toughest – but also came with some unexpected rewards.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A small business owner in Charlotte said the pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse. 

Much of his business disappeared, but as a minority business owner, he said this was the first time he was ever able to get real financial help. And it came from an unlikely source.

Andarrio Johnson normally has a packed calendar of wedding and corporate events to cater to.

“It got a little scary. I had to cancel all my catering.. give back deposits,” Johnson said. 

To survive, he partnered with a local restaurant where he’s prepping meals as a personal chef. He started his business sixteen years ago and said this year has been the toughest – but also came with some unexpected rewards.

“I’ve been trying to get grants and loans for years and never could get approved until this pandemic,” Johnson said.

The Defenders found just 3% of PPP loans over $150,000 went to black-owned businesses, in the Carolinas.

And Johnson is convinced his small business struggled to get help in the past because he’s black - but he just managed to get a $20,000 grant from Lowe’s after the Mooresville based company set aside $25 million in pandemic relief for minority-owned businesses.

“It meant a lot I couldn’t believe these companies are actually looking at minority small businesses – I couldn’t even believe it, it’s a dream come true,” Johnson said.

And he believes it’s a little bit of karma too.

When so much of his work dried up early on in the pandemic, he was making free lunches for kids in the community.

“I just felt like it’s a way to give back and if you give you receive and look- example right now lowes just gave me something. It feels great, it feels great I can't believe it sometimes,” Johnson said. 

Lowe’s Pineville store will host drive-in movie events this Saturday and Sunday to benefit local small businesses in Charlotte impacted by COVID-19. The event is free to attend, but any donation made will be matched two-to-one up to $50,000 by Lowe’s to its grant program. Donations will go to Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Charlotte to help more local small business owners, like Andarrio Johnson.

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