Meet Ariel Meza, Business Navigator for DLBA’s Economic Development Team. Her key role is to connect with and support Downtown small businesses and entrepreneurs, providing them with an understanding of all available financial opportunities and technical assistance resources. 

“The biggest challenge facing Downtown small businesses is the depleted resources that were available during the pandemic,” said Meza. “Bringing new customers and keeping them shopping locally is also another key issue.” 

Meza went on to point out that jobs and careers have changed and modified since the pandemic. Small business staffing, also affected greatly by the pandemic, has altered many business operations and, in many cases, turnaround time has doubled. By cultivating relationships with these businesses, Meza will help expedite assistance and aid greatly in helping them get back on their feet. 

Born, raised, and educated in Long Beach, Meza attended Wilson High School. Not long after she graduated, she was working as a restaurant hostess when COVID-19 hit. “I was furloughed and then laid off from my hostess job in 2020,” she explained. “Dine-in restaurant jobs were among the first to go. I was looking for any opportunities for employment and was told about Pacific Gateway youth programs.” 

Meza was trained to be part of a Pacific Gateway pilot program, becoming an Ambassador who visited businesses in various zip codes within the City of Long Beach. 

“That’s where I saw the heavy impact the pandemic had on Mom and Pop businesses,” she said. “Hearing their worries about possibly losing their main sources of income after all their hard work to build their businesses from the ground up touched my heartstrings and woke up my interest in wanting to learn more about the ins and outs of operating a business and what Long Beach could do for them.”

Her desire to help these businesses led her to the City’s BizCare program, a resource hotline for Long Beach small businesses to contact for City services and grant opportunities during the pandemic. 

“BizCare introduced me to what disadvantages many small businesses have based on their zip codes, language barriers, and technology experience,” said Meza. “With equity, BizCare provided knowledge of City policies, programs, and resources. Acknowledging inner city issues and bringing them to DLBA to make Downtown Long Beach thrive.That is my focus.”

In addition to working full-time at DLBA, Meza is a student at Long Beach City College, working toward her goal of earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. To unwind after demanding days of work and study, she enjoys dining locally. “I love the Poke Pub on the Promenade,” she said. “The poke is fresh and tasty, the service is great, and the owner and staff are the best!” 

Meza also loves the beach and has been going almost every weekend with her family. “I love to see the little ones soak up the sun and jump into the waves,” she said. “I love the feel of the cold waves hitting my toes during this heatwave. I take very little — just a towel, sunscreen and some shades.”