A Hugo resident is doing all he can to ensure that small businesses in the community stick around once this pandemic is behind us.
Mike Roberts, who is originally from North Carolina, is no stranger to small business. At the young age of 5, he remembers helping out with his parents’ small business. When Roberts was a senior in high school, his parents’ business of 30 years went under and they had to file for bankruptcy.
“My parents lost everything … They ended up having to work at a competitor in Atlanta, which was like four to five hours away (from home) during the week. So, my senior year of high school I was living alone for most part,” he recalled. “I’m very infinitely and acutely aware of the sacrifices that go into running a small business.”
Compelled to help area small businesses, Roberts started reaching out to community leaders, business owners and community members. “I was very, very surprised to hear that there was no centralized effort to help (businesses),” Roberts said.
Flying by the seat of his pants, Roberts sprang into action and set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations for local businesses in need.
“I’m trying to hold people accountable and give people a venue to get involved,” Roberts explained. Roberts said residents are quick to offer their opinions on what the town needs and doesn’t need on social media, but are not always willing to “put their money where their mouth is.”
“Are you actually going to step up and either help somebody start a business or start a business yourself? Because if you are not, you kind of don’t have any legs to stand on. You can’t complain and whine about something if you are not going to do anything to help.”
Roberts says 100% of the proceeds will be given to local businesses that need support, but many of the details still need to be worked out. Roberts said small businesses in surrounding communities may also be recipients for the funds.
“The money is going to go to somebody. That’s the whole reason I started it. I want it to go somewhere so that people can actually feel good about investing in their community,” he said.
“If you live here, you should (care) about Hugo, you should care about the businesses that you have around … and you should always try to make it better.”
As of press time, the page had raised a total of $1,350 on a goal of $250,000.
One of the very first donors was Victor Shevchuk, owner of MGM Wine & Spirits in Hugo, who donated $1,000.
“As a Hugo resident and business owner, I understand how hard it is for small businesses to deal with COVID closures and I felt obligated to give back to the community,” Shevchuk said. “MGM and all the other liquor stores in Minnesota, were lucky and worked without interruptions in 2020. We actually picked up some business as restaurants were closed, so I felt it was my obligation to give back when I saw Mike doing this awesome initiative.”
Hugo Business Association (HBA) President Monica Fry said the HBA is grateful for Roberts’ efforts to help businesses. "I feel that Mike is doing an outstanding job on getting the word out that we need to help our local businesses. Any help to help his cause will be a win-win for everyone.
“We are so grateful for all of our local businesses and hate to see them struggle."
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com.