Sometimes the best you can get from a call to tech support is a short-term headache.
For Evita Colon and Solise White, one tech support call snowballed into a Times Square billboard, a major donation and a major boon to their upcoming small business, A Concrete Rose Book Bar.
In June, the duo launched a GoFundMe campaign for the book bar, which will be Pennsylvania's first Black-owned winery when it opens next summer. Setting a modest goal of $25,000 just to match their initial loans, Colon and White fundraised virtually before hosting an in-person fundraiser at Tellus360 in October.
Facing difficulties with transferring funds, the pair reached out to GoFundMe. After solving their tech problems, the employee that helped Colon and White then suggested to her superiors that Concrete Rose would make a good recipient for the company's "Gives Back" program. A few days later, the duo woke up to this message on their GoFundMe page, accompanied by a $500 donation:
"As part of our Gives Back program, we’re grateful for the chance to donate to campaigns that have touched us. With best wishes, The GoFundMe Team."
A donation from the very site that hosts the donations could easily be enough for a feel-good story. But it gets better.
Big surprise in the Big Apple
In September, clothing brand Express partnered with GoFundMe for a program called the "Dream Big Project," wherein the company provides support to entrepreneurs struggling to operate their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A short time after GoFundMe donated the $500 to Concrete Rose, representatives from Express contacted Colon and White, but not for the reasons they initially thought.
"We honestly thought it was spam at first," says Colon. "Or that they were trying to give us coupons or something."
What followed was a whirlwind for the two, who are partners both in business and life. Express sent a camera crew to Lancaster, and over the course of a nine-hour shoot, filmed Colon and White in their home, at Tellus360 and at the 910 S. Duke St. site that will eventually become A Concrete Rose Book Bar.
"During the shoot, they told us they were gifting us a year’s worth of Express clothing," says White. "And we thought that was the gift."
A week after the shoot, Express reached out again with another small request – the pair was asked to go to New York City to check out a billboard Express put together for them in Times Square.
On Nov. 1, a private car whisked Colon and White the 160 miles to New York City, where a glam squad, and the familiar camera crew were there waiting for them.
"Just seeing a billboard and seeing us up there was an electrifying feeling," White explains.
In the promotional video released by Express, Colon and White can be seen watching the electronic billboard unfold with a message for them in real time:
"We want you to keep championing new voices & uniting your community, so here's $10,000."
Then, a previously unseen Express representative makes his way through the small crowd carrying a comically large check, presenting it to the teary couple for the photo finish.
‘A time to be thankful’
After a monthlong whirlwind of increasingly good fortune, the pair already have plans to put their new donations toward architecture, construction and licensing costs.
That also includes one of the business’ highlights.
"Well, we have to focus on the fermentation room, because..." White begins.
"...because we've got to make the wine!" Colon says, laughing while finishing the sentence.
It would be far too simple to distill Colon and White's incredible series of October events down to a single help center call, but at the same time, it's doubtful that windfalls of this magnitude come to people who are rude to telephone operators.
"It’s crazy, because in business, they tell you nice guys finish last, but that really hasn’t been the case for us," says Colon. "We try to be kind and build organic relationships with the people that reach out to us and it does come back tenfold."
The pair says they are taking it slow in the last month of the year to gear up for what will surely be a breakneck 2021 and to appreciate the inexplicable good that came in a year of hardships.
"This is definitely a time to be thankful," Colon says. "Especially with everything going on in the world and even personally, we’ve experienced some family loss and friends passing away, so to be able to live out our dreams in a time like this, I’m extremely thankful. Thankful for life, support, and everyone that helped us propel forward."