'Hardest thing I ever done': Desperate Raleigh gym owner starts GoFundMe to save small business

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Many small businesses are desperate for relief and a cash infusion from the COVID-19 crisis. One Raleigh business owner says he had to muscle up a great deal of strength to ask for help through a fundraiser.

JoJo Polk has owned Core Fitness Studios since 2013. He purchased the gym without a loan and through personal savings.

He made the decision to start a GoFundMe page to save his small business.

Polk wrote on the page, "As we face a third year of this virus, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. Staying true to the mandates and guidelines of this pandemic, we're struggling to maintain our financial obligations."

He said his gym may not be able to stay open through 2022 and starting the GoFundMe page was difficult.

"Probably the hardest thing I ever done," said Polk. "I'm not used to asking for anything, and it actually took a lot of my members and close friends to actually release that page."

Raleigh officials recognize that Polk and so many other small business owners are hitting a wall.

The city addressed a new emerging program during a webinar, which will help small businesses with 49 or fewer employees.

Businesses need to meet certain requirements and could get up to $10,000 based on monthly operating expenses.

ABC11 was told that specifics on the application process should be coming out in a week or two.

"This pandemic keeps taking twists and turns, and we want to help small businesses be as robust as possible to be able to weather any other surprises that come up along the way," said Raleigh Economic Development Manager Mark Weldon.

The Business Recovery Grant Program is another option and small business owners have until Jan. 31 to apply for a one-time payment up to $500,000.

Polk is hoping to raise $50,000 to get over the hump.

"We just want to get ahead. Before the pandemic, we were ahead and everything was looking great and the future was bright," said Polk. "I just want to make sure that what we built in this community is more than a gym. We built a family-based home where people feel comfortable to come."
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