In 2020, Tonya had an eye on the future. Her small business, Rent-A-Theme Entertainment had celebrated 10 years in business and she was planning for another exciting year of bringing play to adults and children of all ages.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic turned Tonya’s life and business on its head. Revenue suddenly stopped coming in as in-person gatherings became impossible. Like many small business owners in Colorado, Tonya struggled to keep her company afloat. “I was facing bankruptcy at one point. I just searched ‘business mentor and partnership,’ and Mile High (United Way) came up. I thought, ‘okay, let me try.’ I emailed and someone responded right away,” Tonya said.
“They’ve given me so much support and so much hope as far as just continuing and being able to pivot a little bit more.”
Mile High United Way’s United For Business team partnered with Tonya, helping her obtain nearly $20,000 in grant money for businesses impacted by Covid-19 and the construction along I-70 through Denver. The funds helped Tonya cover her expenses until it was safe to resume in-person gatherings and events.
United for Business works with family, women, and minority-owned small and micro businesses to ensure they have the resources and support necessary to thrive. Staff and skills-based volunteers work with individual business owners to understand their needs and provide professional services to help owners reach their goals.
Mile High United Way is grateful to Wells Fargo for their continued commitment to local businesses. With their ongoing investment in United for Business, Mile High United Way has expanded access to capital for owners and increased the number of small businesses served, such as Rent-A-Theme.
Watch Tonya’s Story
In addition to the financial support, Tonya has worked closely with the United for Business team to finetune her website, establish a marketing plan, and create a financial strategy to insulate Rent-A-Theme from future unforeseen events.
“(The United for Business team) has been amazing,” Tonya said. “They’ve hustled and found me other mentors to help with the website development, to help with financial planning.”
Rent-A-Theme offers multiple theme kits for children and adults of all ages and backgrounds. The act of playing is a passion for Tonya. As a mother, she saw how playtime sparked her children’s imaginations and made learning fun for them. She realized she had a unique opportunity to build community and expand perspectives through the power of play. “Since play transcends age, gender, race, and culture it is innately inclusive, motivational, and outreaching,” Tonya said.
Moving forward, Tonya hopes to expand Rent-A-Theme into a multi-state franchise. However, as a business owner her days are frequently consumed by administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, deliveries and set-up and, customer service. Through her partnership with United for Business, Tonya has developed new business skills, giving new life to her hopes and dreams for expansion.
In-person bookings have resumed this year and Tonya is excited to see what new changes she can bring to Rent-A-Theme now that she has financial stability. “I am so grateful to United (for) Business because of their support. This road has been extremely challenging. United Way provided the hope when my fighter spirit was almost done,” she said.
One way Mile High United Way supports small and micro businesses is through a Business Impact Opportunity Fund (BIO Fund) in partnership with the city and county of Denver’s Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) Office. The program addresses specific challenges faced by small businesses negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses may receive grants up to $15,000. Visit the DEDO website to learn more about the BIO Fund.
If you are a business owner with questions about our program or need no-cost, personalized consulting, please contact UFB@unitedwaydenver.org.
Interested in donating your time and expertise by becoming a United for Business volunteer? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.