SAN ANTONIO — Magaly Chocano remembers being in a museum board meeting when she got the call that her business was on fire.
"You can't even process what that means, right?" Chocano said. "You're like, 'Grab a fire extinguisher.'"
She didn't realize this was no small office fire. By the time Chocano got closer to her office, the evidence was evident.
"I could see the plume of black smoke in the downtown area. And I was like, 'That can't be my building,'" she recalled.
Flames consumed SWEB Development at 1501 South Flores St. The building for the company she founded in 2008 burned and burned, and she stood watching every heart-wrenching ember.
Her marketing and digital firm would survive despite the fiery fury of Feb. 28.
"It was a kind of a weird moment of massive reflection," she said. "You know, what am I supposed to learn from this?"
Chocano said kindhearted people helped her team find a new space. But their time there was short-lived; before long, they would be forced to shift to work-from-home mode due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
And home is where they remain.
Business did not totally go down the drain. According to a report from visualcapitalist.com, small business recovery from COVID-19 is uneven. However, in the category of not doing so well is San Antonio.
Their report's data comes from a Harvard University-based, nonpartisan, not-for-profit research group called Opportunity Insights. According to that data, small business recovery in San Antonio ranks worst in Texas, especially in the leisure and hospitality sectors.
Chocano said her company has endured, but she began to notice other small businesses in the city feel the heat.
"They're all entrepreneurs, and I was seeing them drop like flies," she said. "Drop like flies overnight."
The business owner decided she would help. She launched inthistogethersa.com to bring the small business community some relief.
"And in eight weeks, we raised $140,000," she said.
Patrons bought Tee-shirts and masks with the effort's heart-shaped logo and message. Chocano used 100% of the profits to purchase gift cards from local businesses and then distribute them to communities in need.
The effort, according to her website, has helped 40 companies and counting.
"Every week, we were distributing close to $9,000 to different businesses...a week," she said. "What I'm certain of today is that there's tremendous uncertainty. What I'm also certain of is that the only way to move forward is to take a step forward."