When the Super Bowl comes to town, it can pose a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for local businesses — but only if they can keep up.
Latino actor and producer Wilmer Valderrama and PepsiCo have teamed up to give Phoenix-based, hispanic-owned businesses $10,000 each to prepare for the big day.
"The opportunity of having the Super Bowl come to a city, [it's] the perfect storm of things coming together to create an environment of discovery. So some of these local businesses, and specifically these Latino-owned restaurants, can thrive, and they can use resources to grow," Valderrama told Cheddar News.
The money went to the lucky owners of five eateries local to Phoenix including Puerto Rican cuisine restaurant Phoenix Coqui, Rosita's Place, Carnicería México, Imelda Happy Tamales, and Tacos Tijuana. The funds are intended to help the businesses stock up on supplies, hire and train new employees, and extend hours, among other improvements. They will also receive free services through PepsiCo's Juntos Crecemos Hispanic Digital & Delivery Program to try to help them modernize their businesses through tech innovations, marketing, and SEO.
"For local Hispanic-owned small businesses, Super Bowl LVII will be a much-needed boost, especially for those still recovering from the impact of the pandemic," Antonio Escalona, the senior vice president and general manager of PepsiCo Foods North America's Hispanic Business Unit, said in a statement.
Valderrama had a chance to present those funds to some of the businesses and said the project was close to his heart because of his background in restaurant work.
"When I was a teenager, I was a busboy in a restaurant, and later in my life, I was able to launch a few restaurants myself, so I understand the struggle. I understand some of the hurdles, and also how hard it is to sometimes keep your door open. And then you throw a global pandemic into it," he said.
Hispanic-owned businesses are a major driver of the U.S. economy. Some five million of them across the country contribute an estimated $800 billion to the economy each year, according to a study from SCORE. Even so, they lack access to capital. An estimated 72 percent of Latino business-owners bootstrap their businesses or turn to family and friends for funds, according to McKinsey and Company.
"The Hispanic-owned businesses and the Latino community in general in the United States has been a major contributor to the engine of this country, they are part of the DNA of how this country was built," Valderrama said. "Giving them an ability to grow and to make more for their work, it doesn't get more patriotic than that."
As far as his acting career, Valderrama is now widely known for his work on NCIS, but he also recently reprised the role of Fez that made him famous on That '70s Show. The show's reboot, That '90s Show, has proven popular. It was renewed by Netflix for a second season just weeks after the series debuted, Variety reported. Valderrama described the experience as "beautiful…fun, and very silly and very nostalgic."
"I'm very, very humbled by the reception of the people and our fans and the supporters that have been with us since we were 18-years-old," he said.
"Whatever God wants for that new cast, I want it all for them," he added.
Valderrama is also set to star as the masked bandit "Zorro" in Walt Disney's forthcoming reimagining of the classic television series.