Sterling Heights

Women-owned businesses dominate Macomb COVID-19 relief grants

When fitness studio owner Alisa Petronski received an email informing her that she'd secured a $5000 business grant from Macomb County to help meet COVID-19 setbacks, she said she breathed a huge sigh of relief. For the owner of Studio Z Fitness in Sterling Heights, the grant will mean being able to pay her rent and utilities. 

"Owning a fitness studio is not always the most lucrative business," she said. "Being shut down for any period of times hits hard economically. That’s been our biggest challenge—paying the bills when you have very little savings and a stopped income stream."

Petronski is one of 3,400 businesses eligible to receive funds from Macomb County's Small Business Sustainability Grant Program, which is providing $20 million to small companies suffering from COVID-19 restrictions. The funding, provided through the federal CARES Act, is being used to assist brick-and-mortar businesses with lost revenues and expenses incurred due to the pandemic.

So far, $14.5 million has been distributed and in the latest round of grants, which focused on businesses with less than 50 employees, women-owned businesses like Petronski's featured heavily, making up nearly 70% of awardees.

Macomb County Planning & Economic Development director Vicky Rad said over 95% of Macomb's 18,000 businesses have less than 50 employees. 

"When we break it down even further, our woman, minority, and Veteran-owned businesses make up a large portion of our independently-owned and operated businesses. Many of these represent our service industry such as restaurants, salons, studios, and professional services, who we specifically targeted for grant relief," said Rad.

For Petronski, the grant means more than financial help, it means being appreciated. 

"I feel valued and supported," she said. 

Since closing in March, Petronski and her team have switched to virtual formats and eventually offering outdoor classes in the studio's parking lot. 

"We have had a hot summer," Petronski says, "But these amazing and supportive customers continue to show up."

"You don’t always realize how important a place like ours is to so many. It’s an outlet, a stress release from a hectic world."
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at