NEW YORK - Mother and daughter Tamika Edwards and Veniece Bolton moved from the island of Jamaica in 2008. Now, they're side by side in another Jamaica, running Diamond Laundromat on 141st Avenue in Queens.
"We are not on salary. We are the owners, and we are the workers," Bolton said. "Everything we do together."
But making ends meet as a small business isn't easy — mounting expenses include washing machine repairs.
"I acquired some of them that were out of service, and the maintenance of them is a real challenge for us," Bolton said.
An increase in rent could be devastating. An analysis of city data from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development shows a spike in storefront rent across the borough post-pandemic, with southeast Queens seeing a jump of 37.5% between 2019 and 2021. In areas where rent increased, people of color made up 72% of the population.
The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation is offering support by way of $2,500 grants, which it's distributing to 150 entrepreneurs of color in southeast Queens.
"We really hope that this will help businesses navigate some of the rising costs out there," director of economic development Aron Kurlander said.
While loans and grants can bring a short-term boost to businesses like Diamond Laundromat, the future of small business in Queens hangs in the balance.
According to a survey from the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, nearly 1 in 4 small businesses plan to or may close in the next year.
While rent stabilization can help tenants in residential buildings, advocates argue small businesses should benefit from the same protections.
Annetta Seecharran is executive director of Chhaya, which works to promote economic justice in Queens.
"Without the stability of small businesses, we have no community," she said.
She warns that big chains will swallow up mom-and-pop shops unless elected officials take action.
"The city, state and federal government have resources, but they are often inaccessible to small, immigrant-owned businesses," she said.
The owners of Diamond Laundromat have applied for a grant from the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, which they hope will bolster the faith they already have in themselves to succeed.
"I don't think anybody else can do it but Mama and I," Bolton said.
To apply for a small business grant from the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, visit gjdc.org/grant.
You can email Elle with Queens story ideas by CLICKING HERE.
for more features.