Alexandra Maruri Receives Grant Money and Free Facebook Ads
Maruri’s application for this coveted grant was among millions of applicants worldwide and in her own words, “the grant application was a very challenging and all-inclusive process which required the completion of numerous tasks followed by a thorough selection process by Facebook that included a great deal of background information as well a detailed review that was conducted on my social media accounts.”
Leaving the corporate world in 2008, Maruri used the money from her 401K to follow her passion and start her tour company, Bronx Historical Tours, the first-ever tour company exclusively focused on the historical places and sites in the New York City borough of The Bronx.
From its founding, sustainable tourism has been the model for Bronx Historical Tours and as such, Maruri created a platform for small group tours within a framework of respect and promotion of the local Bronx communities within which she has always conducted her tours.
Like many businesses locally and around the globe, Maruri was enormously impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel and tourism was one area of industry highly affected and as it dwindled, so too did her business. “Local tours are my only source of income and I was extremely worried about the future of my small business. I’ve been an independent small business for 9 years, self funded and between the federal suspension of all travel on March 11, 2020 and the subsequent quarantine, my income and livelihood was put in grave jeopardy” says Maruri.
Between March and July 2020, Maruri had pre-sold approximately 50 tickets, all of which had to be refunded. “I had to pace out the full refunds during the pandemic for my clients, which resulted in my being left with $1.77 in my account. It was a very difficult and frightening time.” The majority of these pre-sold tickets were to international clients, as a large portion of her business comes from tourists visiting New York and want to learn more about The Bronx.
Fortunately as a small business she was eligible for a small business loan. “The SBA loan was a lifesaver for me,” says Maruri. “Receiving approval for a loan was a true blessing in order to continue to operate with limited funds to pay my bills and put food on the table.”
From the time she started her business, Maruri has always possessed a strong commitment to giving back and providing a benefit to the local community of business owners and organizations. This local entrepreneur’s efforts throughout the past decade have included much pro-bono work in the form of free tours for Bronx schools and hospitals in an effort to increase knowledge and appreciation for the community within which they reside and work. Additionally, she used her social media platform to promote fellow Bronx Business owners. “The hashtag #supportthebronx, is an initiative I began when I started my business.”
The Facebook Grant was something she maintained cautious optimism about after her submission. “The interview and vetting process was quite in-depth, going from April through June. They wanted to get to the heart of why this grant would not only benefit me personally, but the small business community, which I serve and have always been passionate about with Bronx Historical Tours”
Maruri uses her tours to familiarize visitors with the local businesses and encourages them to patronize the restaurants and mom and pop retail shops in the neighborhoods she offers tours. Her biggest concern expressed to the Facebook team was the fragility of the Bronx economy. She expressed the situation to them in April when unemployment ended up at 16.8% and predicted that with the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment was sure to rise even more. Unfortunately, she was correct, as the unemployment numbers for June reached 24.7%.
As fate would have it, the news of her being awarded the grant arrived on Maruri’s birthday. “The Facebook Grant was a positive and hopeful reinforcement during these uncertain times. It will enable me to invest in my business now that I can begin conducting tours again as well as help promote our Bronx businesses through the paid ads on Facebook.”
As things start to reopen again, Maruri’s business model of a small group format which was in place prior to the pandemic, will allow a seamless transition to the mandatory health and safety requirements of social distancing rules and face coverings. With her last tour being on March 4, 2020, she adds “With this grant, I hope to return to conducting true Bronx neighborhood tours in the near future.”
For more information about Bronx Historical Tours, visit www.bronxhistoricaltours.com or follow the BHT on Instagram at @BronxTours, Twitter at @BronxTours, Facebook at @ExploringTheBronx.
Till next time,