Small Business Owner Uses Travis County COVID-19 Grant To Build Mobile Mentorship Van

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The first round of funding in Travis County was roughly $9.4 million and went to more than 220 small businesses through the county’s Thrive Program.

Travis County commissioners are considering another $8 million in funds from federal relief money, some of which would go toward administrative costs.


  • “I had to think of a new strategy once the pandemic hit,” said Wilda Harper, owner of Tots ‘N Tutors.

  • City of Austin hands out $3,000 grants to more than 40 schools for green projects

“It was the idea of the van that made them open up to getting that individualized instruction,” said Harper.

Harper has owned Tots ‘N Tutors for six years now; it’s an on-the-road tutoring business.

Wilda Harper’s mobile tutoring van for her business, Tots ‘N Tutors. (Courtesy: Wilda Harper)Wilda Harper’s mobile tutoring van for her business, Tots ‘N Tutors. (Courtesy: Wilda Harper)Wilda Harper’s mobile tutoring van for her business, Tots ‘N Tutors. (Courtesy: Wilda Harper)Wilda Harper’s mobile tutoring van for her business, Tots ‘N Tutors. (Courtesy: Wilda Harper)

With the onset of the pandemic, many of her clients were concerned with her coming inside their homes to provide the tutoring services. She created the mobile tutoring van to alleviate the spread, but found it would cost thousands to create the van.

“At first, I applied for a smaller grant,” said Harper. “I didn’t know I would need that much, because my idea in my mind was much smaller than it really was.” Biden admin reveals 60 finalists for $1B in economic grants

Travis County gave her roughly $37,500 as part of the Thrive Program using American Rescue Plan Act funds. The money paid for her van, supplies and the vinyl wrap, upping her business game. “As I’m driving to these locations, people would say, ‘I saw your van,’” said Harper.

Travis County commissioners targeted businesses outside of the Austin city limits. “We said, ‘we are going to prioritize small businesses, and particularly women and small minority-owned businesses,’” said Brigid Shea, Travis County commissioner.

“They came in right at a time when we were starting to lose hope as to what our future looked like,” said Rachel Shaffer, owner of Flipnastics. “Without any relief from the landlords at that time, none of those things were available for commercial businesses at that time.” Shaffer used the roughly $40,000 they got for three months rent.

Flipnastics in the northwest part of Travis County was also among the list of recipients. After book controversy, Williamson Co. leaders approve millions in funding for Round Rock, Leander schools


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