Small Business Administration official visits Berks companies

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When Mark Madrid and Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz talk, it’s like they’ve known each other for years.

“Mucho gusto”, said Madrid, kissing Cepeda-Freytiz, owner of Mi Casa Su Casa restaurant on Penn Street and a Reading Town Councilor.

It’s hard to believe the two just met. Madrid visited Berks County on Thursday as part of his duties as Associate Administrator of the Office of Entrepreneurship Development in U.S. Small Business Administration. He visited the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center at Kutztown University, Radius Corp. in Kutztown and was now in Reading to learn about the concerns of small business owners.

“We have to have empathy,” said Madrid, “we have to have elephant ears, not hippo ears, which means we have to listen. It’s about making sure we understand the land in Pennsylvania.

Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, owner of Mi Casa Su Casa, chats with Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid at his Penn Street restaurant in Reading Thursday afternoon.

Cepeda-Freytiz and Madrid had a broad conversation about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses like his and the supply chain crisis that followed. Cepeda-Freytiz showed his children’s works in Madrid and the two exchanged stories about their fathers. Cepeda-Freytiz’s father is battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, but when his daughter told him to relax he said he “didn’t want to be too comfortable”. The Madrid father, in palliative care with COVID-19 in the summer of 2020, was cleaning up his environment shortly before his death.

“As long as there is breath and life in you,” Cepeda-Freytiz said, “you keep fighting… That’s what my father instilled in me, this hard work, this dedication.”

Her father’s attitude has helped her overcome the challenges of the past 20 months, with loans and support from the SBA Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Kutztown SBDC.

“If we didn’t have this constant and ongoing support from these entities,” said Cepeda-Freytiz, referring to the SBA and SBDC, Mi Casa Su Casa wouldn’t be here today.

“This is the most authentic group of people you will ever meet,” she said. “It’s not just a job for them, it’s really about serving our community, serving small businesses. They are always within reach of the phone.

This is not the first challenge Mi Casa Su Casa faces. Cepeda-Freytiz called the Great Recession of 2008 a “COVID boot camp.” “

“I’m not kidding, I thought I was going to jump off the bridge,” she said. “It was so bad. I was still crying on the phone with my mortgage. When that funding came in, I was like ‘Thank you Jesus!’ “

Madrid likes to say that his business is a small business. At the meeting at Mi Casa Su Casa, he praised President Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, saying it would help small businesses. He also touted the SBA’s Community Browser Pilot Program (CNPP). Tied to the US bailout, the $ 100 million program is “hyper local,” Madrid said, “to help us reach the smallest of the little ones.”

Rural Berks County reminds Madrid of its homeland in the enclave of Texas, “where the cattle outnumber the people.” (“That’s why I wear these boots,” he said, pointing to his cowboy boots.)

Madrid is interested in the growth of entrepreneurs in rural areas.

“We make sure to create digital assets together,” he said, “because this ecosystem is so diverse. “

The pandemic has created a new generation of local entrepreneurs working from home, and Cepeda-Freytiz wants to give them the tools to succeed.

“We’re all part of this extended family,” she said, “it’s like a big neighborhood. We have to look out for each other. It’s like a win-win.

She was so excited about the visit to Madrid that she prepared some fresh flowers.

“It reminds me that you run a business and things are happening every second of every day,” he said. “And it is beautiful.”

  • Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, owner of Mi Casa Su Casa, speaks with Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid in his restaurant. At Mi Casa Su Casa on Penn Street in Reading on Thursday afternoon November 4, 2021, where Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid was visiting as part of the Area Business meeting with the Kutztown Small Business Development Center. (BEN HASTY EAGLE READING)

  • Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, owner of Mi Casa Su Casa, speaks with Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid in his restaurant. At Mi Casa Su Casa on Penn Street in Reading on Thursday afternoon November 4, 2021, where Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid was visiting as part of the Area Business meeting with the Kutztown Small Business Development Center. (BEN HASTY – EAGLE READING)

  • Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz, owner of Mi Casa Su Casa, speaks with Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid in his restaurant. At Mi Casa Su Casa on Penn Street in Reading on Thursday afternoon November 4, 2021, where Associate Secretary for Small Business Administration Mark Madrid was visiting as part of the Area Business meeting with the Kutztown Small Business Development Center. (BEN HASTY EAGLE READING)


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