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Gainesville Spotlight: Hispanic Owned Small Business Up2U Nutrition

Small businesses during the COVID-19 era

COVID-19 has created both a health and economic crisis, as we know. Businesses of all kinds were struck with a plethora of hardships. Small businesses were forced to struggle to stay open while short-staffed or shut down permanently. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, 7.5 million small businesses were at risk of shutting down if COVID-19 continued to run its course over the following months. 

Since then, vaccinations have been released and enforced,  mask mandates and social distancing have decreased, businesses have opened to full capacity and — most importantly — a variety of different programs and grants were issued to individuals and businesses. 

Businesses received grants, such as the CARES Act.  These grants supported the Paycheck Protection Program, which allowed small businesses to maintain their payroll, rehire employees and cover applicable overhead written in the program. Similarly, Gov. Ron DeSantis enacted the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to aid small businesses affected by COVID-19 with short-term and interest-free loans for a limited time. 

Small Businesses Booming

According to NPR, people started over 440,000 businesses in June 2021. How could this possibly happen during a global pandemic? To put it short, economic recessions made way for ideal conditions — to some — to open businesses. As many people shifted to working from home or were laid off, they had newfound time to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial spirit. Others benefitted from stimulus checks and unemployment compensation and invested in their own new businesses, trying out new angles like fully online businesses. 

Up2U Nutrition

A Hispanic-owned small business run by Rosie Cecilia and Nico Gil Sanchez has begun a new life in the Gainesville community. Rosie and Nico are of Venezuelan and Colombian origins and moved to Gainesville from Miami.

Up2U Nutrition offers nutrition for everyone. They have shakes that can be substituted for meals full of vitamins, protein and minerals while they also provide healthy energy drinks, protein waffles and different treats on the weekends. Their products target different vital parts of life, like improving the digestive system, immune system and heart health. Their products are all dairy-free with the exemption of waffles and extra toppings.

Eight months into their endeavors with Up2U Nutrition, Rosie said the biggest obstacle to open amid a pandemic was spreading the word to the community. 

“The hardest part was just getting close to people because of social distancing at first,” she said.

Their goal, centered on healthy nutrition, has not changed since they opened doors. Rosie and Nico have been focused on nutrition for a while.  Nico started his healthy journey eight years ago, and his wife Rosie is going on five years. 

Rosie first started participating with Herbalife for her own healthy world. Once moving past her own skeptical feelings about Herbalife, she fell in love with the products and her friends started asking about her health journey. 

“A lot of people started telling me, ‘I want to do what you’re doing,’ and I saw a business opportunity,” she said. “When I first started to do the business, the first model —the first thing I saw — was nutrition club models.”

Up2U Nutrition isn’t just all about shakes and eating healthy. 

Rosie emphasizes, “There’s different ways you can do this, but this way we can bring people in and offer them something good, help them with any goal they have and get comfortable with them by building trust and a relationship.”

The couples encourage a second-home feel and want comfort to emit from their establishment. 

Rosie understands every health journey doesn’t look the same.

 “One of the most important things, you must understand this isn’t a race, it’s not something that is going to happen overnight, it’s a journey,” she said. “You’re going to have ups and downs. It’s normal and part of life, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You have to find something that works for you…not everyone’s the same and all bodies react different.”

She added that their business model goes beyond physical results.

“Focus on more than just weight loss but also being healthier, having more energy and your digestion being good,” she said. “It’s not only about how you look on the outside but how your body is working on the inside.”

Rosie and Nico hope to teach others how to open their own small businesses like their own. They’re currently working on making connections with people who are interested in opening businesses like Up2U Nutrition. 

You can visit Up2U Nutrition at 1517 NW 23rd Ave. in the same plaza as Winn-Dixie. There is plenty of free parking and indoor seating, so bring friends!

Lover of writing, literature, art and photography. Determined to not only help but give people a voice. Building a better world for all the people I love and have yet to love.