Laid-off workers take opportunity to create new business

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many workers who were laid off during the COVID-19 crisis have turned it into a blessing.

Just a few months ago, Katherine Bonnema found herself without work.

“I applied for unemployment as soon as I was told the restaurants were closing,” Bonnema.

To help people in her situation, Taylor Berger, who owns several dining venues, created 2 Broke Bartenders and a Truck.

The goal was to give laid-off employees a chance to earn some cash doing side jobs.

“It wasn’t just bartenders it’s cooks, its bar backs, mangers and everything,” Berger said.

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While people were at home, the restaurant workers ran essential errands.

Now it has grown into much more.

From a handful of workers and one truck, now they have 30 employees, seven trucks and they’re operating out of a new building.

“Every single day we have a couple of landscaping crews,” Berger said. “A couple of carpentry crews, a couple of handymen and a couple of pressure washers out there.”

Through the pandemic, people have found new passions.

Related: Making it in the Mid-South: Bartender still waiting for unemployment benefits

“We are learning as we go but we have also attracted a lot of people who had skills we didn’t know about,” Berger said.

Instead of drawing unemployment, Bonnema handed invoices and payroll duties for the company.

“I love doing this actually,” Bonnema said. “I just didn’t know it until I started it.”

“To create something when it’s really hard, that’s what I thrive on and that’s what I love to do,” Berger said. “And to do it around all these great people, that’s life.”

Berger said when his employees and customers meet up, people really enjoy the interaction with others because they’ve been alone for so long.

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