Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Gilma Para

Sabor Paisa Restaurant

Tampa, Florida

“One thing I’ve learned in this pandemic is that nothing is for certain. Fight to stay open, persevere and hold on and you’ll get through this stronger than before.”

“When the pandemic hit our sales dropped and we started making deliveries, but it was not enough. We had to close for six weeks, but not just because of the drop in sales. We needed to take care of our employees and ourselves. When we re-opened, it was just me and one other employee on staff,” said Gilma.   

Fifteen years ago, Gilma and her husband moved from Colombia with dreams of creating something of their own. “In Colombia I had always worked for someone else. I had a good job and made good money, but I still wanted to do my own thing. So, when I came here, I had the opportunity to do it.”  Sabor Paisa Restaurant offers authentic traditional Colombian and Latin dishes like their specialty Bandeja Sabor Paisa regarded as the national dish of Colombia. This signature recipe along with Mofongo (mashed plantains with pork) dishes are favorites of the Latin community.  Gilma says she started her restaurant with no experience except for the love of cooking and the love of family around a table enjoying a meal. She says her business has provided her opportunities to help others who are starting businesses or looking for jobs; she had eight employees on payroll before COVID.   


When COVID closed her business, Gilma was determined to hold on to her restaurant. Gilma was referred to Ascendus by our partner Prospera, an economic development nonprofit organization whose mission is to help grow Hispanic-owned businesses to achieve community prosperity. With the assistance from Ascendus and Prospera, Gilma secured support through two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for over $32,000 in May 2020 and January 2021. With the PPP funds she was able to pay bills, re-open and invite some of her eight employees back. In May 2021 she also received an Ascendus Restaurant Futures Loan for $15,000 which she used to pay bills, rent, and purchase supplies. The Restaurant Futures Loan program focus is on restaurants and their employees that have been hard-hit by pandemic shutdowns providing 0% loans to restaurants committed to creating a safe, positive, and just work environment for their employees. 


Gilma has slowly been getting back to the same level of business as before the pandemic.  She credits her customers for being loyal and keeping her business alive. “People really like our food,” says Gilma, “and say it is delicious and have encouraged us to open more restaurants. Maybe smaller ones with the same menu.” 

In the meantime, Gilma says, “the loans have given me the time and money to recover my losses during the pandemic and stay afloat. I have had a great experience working with Ascendus. The first time it only took one week to apply and get the first PPP loan, and this has made the process easier with the other loans. One thing I’ve learned in this pandemic is that nothing is for certain. Fight to stay open, persevere and hold on and you’ll get through this stronger than before.” 

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