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How one woman went from art classes with her kids to coordinating over 100 artisans.

By uniting, these artisans give each other a chance to make a living.

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The first time Hema Balakrishnan started working with clay in a course taken with her kids — she knew it would lead her somewhere.

But where? Making a livelihood as a terra cotta artisan — transforming riverbed clay into colorful jewelry — was next to impossible. Freelance jewelers in her community would sometimes have to wait 40 days to be paid for their products.

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Courtesy of Chef El-Amin
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When non-essential businesses in NYC were ordered to close in March, restaurants across the five boroughs were tasked to pivot fast or risk shuttering their doors for good.

The impact on the city's once vibrant restaurant scene was immediate and devastating. A national survey found that 250,000 people were laid off within 22 days and almost $2 billion in revenue was lost. And soon, numerous restaurant closures became permanent as the pandemic raged on and businesses were unable to keep up with rent and utility payments.

Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York City-based nonprofit and incubator that has assisted more than 275 local businesses in the food industry, knew they needed to support their affiliated businesses in a new light to navigate the financial complexities of shifting business models and applying for loans.

According to Hot Bread Kitchen's CEO Shaolee Sen, shortly after the shutdown began, a third of restaurant workers that they support had been laid off and another third were furloughed.

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