Comcast RISE: Investing in PoC-owned small businesses

Small businesses owned by people of color (PoC-owned small businesses) are among those most impacted by the ongoing pandemic, and Comcast RISE was created to invest in their success.

Over the past eighteen months we have had conversations with hundreds of diverse small business owners and we continue to hear about the need for additional support when it comes to marketing, technology, and funds that will help them on their path to recovery.

There are two programs for eligible businesses in select markets:

To help raise awareness of these programs and encourage diverse small business owners in our network to apply, Intentionalist will be publishing a special landing page and sharing additional information via our newsletter and social media.

Intentionalist is proud to partner with Comcast RISE because we share the belief that PoC-owned small businesses are at the heart of a more connected, inclusive economy.

Here are the stories of two business owners who applied for and received Comcast RISE support.

Geo’s Cuban Bar and Grill

Kim Gianotti (left) andGeo Rodriguez (right), owners of Geo’s Cuban Bar and Grill.

Geodanys “Geo” Rodriguez and Kim Gianotti are best known for their Cuban sandwich at the Geo’s Cuban Bar and Grill.

Cooking has always been Geo’s dream and passion. He grew up cooking with his family in Cuba and has always liked to invent and create new dishes for Kim and their family to try.

Sharing his Cuban roots with others through Geo’s is something he cherishes.

“It is something special,” Geo said. “It’s like I have a gift that I know I can put on your table — something that you’ve never tasted before. And I feel thrilled see the happiness and make somebody else happy, at least for a little bit.”

In 2013, the couple originally opened Geo’s Cuban & Creole as a small cafe in Ballard.

Dreaming of something bigger, they expanded and moved their restaurant into a bigger space in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood in 2018, allowing Geo to further explore his passion for the culinary arts.

“We realized we could go bigger [and be] more successful in a better location,” Geo said. “We liked what we were doing and we pursued the dream, like everybody wants to expand and grow.”

For Geo and Kim, the Comcast RISE opportunity came at the perfect time.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced them to rethink the future of their restaurant, so the couple closed Geo’s Cuban Bar and Grill in Greenwood to open another location in a cafe style that will focus on takeout.

“The pandemic has changed a lot for us,” Kim said. “We had to sort of rework the whole business.”

“It’s a hard time,” Geo said. “This is a really, really difficult time for the restaurant industry in particular. We are small business owners, and thanks to Comcast for the great help that they gave us with upgrading our systems, computers, and laptops — this is something that’s going to be very beneficiary for us, for the staff.”

Geo said their new laptops have helped them streamline communication and the ordering process, while the tablets help keep all the different delivery apps they use organized. They’re planning on using their tablets in the new Geo’s location, which Kim said has made things easier for them as they move locations.

“It saved us a huge expense for having to buy new tablets,” Kim said. “It’s just really been a big relief. In addition, we ended up with a free year of internet service, so that’s incredible.”

By being a part of Comcast RISE, Geo said it was easier for them to make the decision to change the structure of their business and move locations while keeping their business going in the process.

For any business owner on the fence about applying to Comcast RISE, Geo and Kim have one message: go for it.

“Don’t waste time,” Geo said. “Adelante, vamos, vale!”

Ruffhouse Renton

(From left to right) Arthur Ruff, Max Ruff, Arthur Ruff IV, and Courtney Anaya. (Photo: Ruffhouse Renton)

Courtney Anaya and Arthur Ruff opened their downtown Renton-based martial arts gym, Ruffhouse Renton, in 2016.

Courtney’s life has revolved around martial arts ever since her dad signed her up for classes at 9 years old. In 2019, she ranked #2 in the world in her division in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation’s Tokyo Open (along with dozens of career accolades). Arthur is an accomplished black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has opened multiple Ruffhouse Jiu Jitsu locations since moving to the U.S. from Brazil in the late 1990s.

“Martial arts has been my entire life,” Courtney said. “It’s the one thing I love doing, and sharing it with other people is really the biggest mission or passion so that it can affect [other’s] lives the way it’s affected mine so much.”

For her, martial arts is therapy. Everything from Tae Kwon Do, Chinese Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, to boxing has encouraged Courtney to focus on her strength, face her fears and failures, and gave her a sense of community. As a woman, she wants to encourage more young girls to join martial arts.

“What it really gave me, I guess, as a female, is confidence,” Courtney said.

Courtney grew up in Renton and moved back in 2016. She saw that her childhood martial arts school was about to close its doors, so she stepped in and took over the business. Courtney had been studying Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wanted to them classes to her gym, which is how she came to partner with Arthur.

Courtney and Arthur first found out about the Comcast RISE program through a Comcast email and decided to apply. At the time, the COVID-19 lockdown had hit small businesses hard, especially gyms.

Through the Comcast RISE program, Ruffhouse received a new laptop, iPads, and new security cameras, which Courtney said has made their daily operations and communication easier, helps them keep track of their students, and keeps everyone on the same page, especially when the gym is busy with multiple classes.

Their new system even helps keep their students and staff safe.

“If there’s exposure of COVID, then we really have to have that accurate attendance because we have to tell people and figure out who and when,” Courtney said.

Courtney said the tools Ruffhouse received through Comcast RISE allowed her team to focus on what’s really important — their students.

“It really helps with the day-to-day operations of the gym,” Courtney said. “Things can run smoothly on the administrative side so that we can focus on just teaching the students and what’s going on on the mat instead,” Courtney said.

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