The impact of COVID-19 has left a giant black cloud over many small businesses, and while the economy continues to trudge through this weird time, many business owners are left wondering how they will dust themselves off from this heavy blow that was the past two years.

Dozens of women-owned businesses in Massachusetts just received a helping hand from the Massachusetts Conference for Women, with nine of those businesses operating on the SouthCoast, giving restaurants like Mumma Mary’s in Wareham a fighting chance in the new year.

The mission of The Conferences for Women is to “promote, communicate and amplify the influence of women in the workplace and beyond.” They pride themselves on fighting for gender equality in the workforce, but when the pandemic came crashing in, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

“The last couple of years, we have partnered with the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and we had a call for entry statewide,” explained Laurie Dalton White, Executive Director of the conference.

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The criteria were focused on small, women-owned businesses, and the board initially approved 60 grants for a total of $300,000. When the inbox became flooded with hundreds of submissions, the board gave permission for 20 more.

“All 500 (submissions) are worthy, we just tried to identify those that might have needed it the most,” White said.

Mumma Mary’s was one of the lucky ones chosen. Mary Labonte has been in the restaurant industry for 40 years and opened her own Italian café in December of 2014. Everything is homemade and checked over by Mumma Mary herself.

“I had to close down twice for COVID and had to lay off my staff twice,” said Labonte. “I’m a very small business, and it’s been tough.”

Labonte’s family dealt with several bouts of COVID amidst dealing with layoffs and ever-piling bills, so when the conference reached out, encouraging her to apply, she jumped on it – and thank goodness she did.

“I got the news the day before Christmas (that I was chosen). I’m not going to lie to you, I had a tear in my eye," she said.

Labonte will use the $5,000 to catch up on bills, tax payments, and get caught up on her payroll as she brings her staff back.

“I brought the girls back, and it’s nice to have them. Mumma’s getting old,” she joked.

In all seriousness, if the Massachusetts Conference for Women did not save these businesses outright, they at least gave these women a leg up in 2022.

Check out the nine SouthCoast restaurants that will be able to catch up this year thanks to the generous grants from the conference.

Massachusetts Conference for Women Served Up Grants to These Nine SouthCoast Restaurants

The Massachusetts Conference of Women awarded 80 women-owned restaurants throughout Massachusetts this year with $5,000 grants, totaling $400,000. Nine of those restaurants are in our hometowns.