By Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The pandemic has hurt so many small businesses, forcing some to shut down. But a Harlem woman with strong passion and a dream was able to thrive with her mobile fashion business.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, it’s in part thanks to a local grant that’s providing relief and hope to dozens of similar companies, too.

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“I’m living my dream,” said Sheila Black, whose boutique is literally on a roll.

Her truck for Liha is 50 feet from the famed Apollo Theater. It’s filled with fun fashion.

This former accountant started Liha in a very small way in 2013. Her idea for it stretches back decades.

“I had to borrow the table. I only had two sheets of fabric, which I threw on the table, set up my hosiery and I was in business,” she said.

Help from friends and family and a series of micro-loans of about $15,000 each got her through, allowing her to add more clothing and accessories.

Since she did not have the high overhead of a brick and mortar store, she survived and grew her business in the pandemic – and is now debt-free.

She has an expansion plan for Liha, but it’s not something she’s rushing into

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“I’m already starting the conversation of franchising Liha,” Black said. “That’s not gonna come for about another five years.”

“If you love what you do, then you’ll somehow make it work,” said Anita Trehan, chef and owner of Chaiwali.

Trehan said there was no way she’d hang up her apron and close her Harlem restaurant without a fight.

To the rescue was a $10,000 grant from the Local Initiative Support Corporation of New York, aka LIS.

“It definitely was a leg up. We did help out some of the employees. I did help up with training,” Trehan said.

Valerie White is executive director of LIS, which works with corporate and other philanthropic sources and invests in minority-owned businesses.

$10,000 grants went to 112 New York City small businesses last year

“Identify whether or not a grant or a loan or some combination of that will help them sustain,” said White.

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Small business owners are told dreams are kept alive when you connect to the right kinds of help.

Dave Carlin