A small business owner from South Florida got the chance to share her story of success and overcoming struggles in the pandemic with a very big name.
President-Elect Joe Biden posted a message Friday on Twitter of a conversation he had with Pilar Guzman Zavala, the owner of Half Moon Empanadas with her husband Juan.
Zavala spoke with Biden about her life, immigrating from Mexico to the United States for school and eventually opening up the restaurant with locations across Miami-Dade County.
Within the last 24 hours, the interview has turned Guzman Zavala into a social media sensation. Her first restaurant went up 12 years ago.
Don't miss local breaking news and weather. Download our NBC 6 South Florida app for iOS or Android — and sign up for alerts.
“We just kept growing and the dreams continues to be a national chain,” Zavala said. “I’ve lived what they call the American dream.”
Zavala later detailed the struggles of her business in the months since the pandemic started, when hers was among the many across South Florida forced to close their doors for a period of time.
12 of Half Moon Empanadas' 14 stores around Miami-Dade had to close, and 50 employees were laid off.
“It took two months for us to hear and get approved for our PPP loan,” Zavala told Biden, saying they survived by focusing on both online orders and making meals for seniors.
The couple said they had to shift their business model after COVID-19 struck. They developed partnerships with non-profits, which purchase empanadas for hospital staff, firefighters and seniors.
Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday called the “American Rescue Plan.” The legislative proposal would meet Biden's goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, and advance his objective of reopening most schools by the spring.
On a parallel track, it delivers another round of aid to stabilize the economy while the public health effort seeks the upper hand on the pandemic.
“I’m glad you’re looking at how you can support small businesses,” Zavala said. “The businesses that are ten people, the businesses that are small and not getting the PPP.”
Zavala said she dreams for a “better Miami” and a better opportunity for both women and Latino entrepreneurs.
“This is a president who is going to make that happen,” Zavala said at the end of the video. She told NBC 6 that “it gives me hope that (Biden) understands the problem. He has the right idea."
"I really hope that the system, the government entities and the people that are going to execute the plan actually, you know, make it happen on the ground,” she concluded.
The Half Moon Empanadas locations that are open include one at Miami International Airport, and one in northeast Miami-Dade. They have plans to open locations in Denver and Nashville airports, as well as to expand their “ventanita” services around South Florida.