Charlotte business giving back 2x while struggling through coronavirus financial crash

Local business gives back to community

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte-based company, Bella Tunno, has a goal to help end child hunger and is finding a way to continue their mission despite struggling amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bella Tunno’s slogan is “Buy One, Feed One” - for every product sold, the company gives one meal to a child in need. But sales have all but stopped now and the women behind the business have faced tough decisions.

The company has given millions of meals to kids in need because of their sales. Even with those taking such a drastic hit, the women tell me giving is in their DNA.

While it’s especially difficult to give right now, it’s also when the community needs it most so they found a way to do even more – and doubling every gift.

“We thought, do we kind of hunker down and see what’s going to happen and then decide our response? Or do we just live our mission? And our mission is always to give back in every decision is doing the next right thing," said Michelle Buelow.

Michelle Buelow founded Bella Tunno, a baby-wear business in Charlotte 15 years ago.

After losing her brother to addiction she decided every sale would give back to leave a legacy for his life.

“We started giving back at the very beginning,” said Buelow.

Since then they've donated 4 million meals to hungry kids through Feeding America.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Bella Tunno’s business took a huge hit, sales nearly stopped just as the need for donations grew even more.

“One of the things that COVID-19 has done this pandemic has really brought the issue of food insecurity to the forefront," said Zuani Villarreal, director of communications at Feeding America. “State stay at home orders and school closures, all of that is happening having a ripple effect.... we project that the food insecure population in North Carolina could increase up to close to 2 million people because of the pandemic."

The numbers of those in need rising, sales dollars falling and a payroll of people on the line, and Bella Tunno did not get a PPP loan. Even still they had had to make a tough decision.

“I’m really proud to say we have not laid anyone off," said Buelow.

Employees like Taylor Brunson are proud, too.

“I really can’t explain the feeling that my family and friends are, you know, being furloughed and like go and it is so sad, but not only am I Not in that boat. Luckily, because I am such a great leader, but we’re also the only thing employed we’re still trying to do our best to stay true to our mission," said Brunson.

The mission to give back with every sale, honoring Michelle’s brother’s legacy, hasn’t stopped but increased because of COVID.

“We wrote a check for $10,000 specific to the COVID-19 funds, just to show our support and to show that we’re going to do everything we can to continue to help," said Buelow.

It’s nice to see in all this sadness that there’s kind of a bright light,” said Brunson.

Since Bella Tunno is doubling each gift, each item sold equals not one, but two, meals for kids in need.

To put the need further into perspective - Bella Tunno’s partner, Feeding America, says they need an additional one-point-four billion dollars just to cover the need for the next 6 months.

If you’d like to help, you can make a donation to a local food pantry like Second Harvest Food Bank.

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