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How I navigated COVID-19 as a small business owner: TPG reader success story

Nov. 13, 2020
4 min read
How I navigated COVID-19 as a small business owner: TPG reader success story
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Image courtesy Seoul Taco.

Citi is a TPG advertising partner

This week we are sharing the story of David Choi, founder of Seoul Taco and Citi® / AAdvantage® brand ambassador, with his experience as a small business owner and cardholder during the pandemic.

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I started Seoul Taco with a single food truck in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri back in 2011 and since then it’s grown to seven brick-and-mortar locations across Illinois and Missouri.
Operating a small business in the hospitality industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has been really tough. Not just for Seoul Taco, all restaurants have been struggling. To stay afloat, we’ve had to adapt the way we operate and quickly adhere to new rules, restrictions and safety measures. For example, outdoor dining when weather permits is great, if you already have the space set up. But if you only have indoor seating, it’s harder to safely ensure customers are socially distanced.
Seoul Taco has been fortunate that from our humble food truck beginnings, our business has always been takeout-focused, and we’ve been able to continue that during the pandemic. If there’s a silver lining throughout this pandemic, it’s that we’ve been able to make positive changes for customers such as our shifting our menus to QR codes, which will likely be a permanent fixture in our venues. COVID-19 has also forced us to expedite certain projects we had been working on, such as becoming more app-based. While it’s still a work in progress, we’re looking forward to when we can offer the app to our customers.
In addition to serving our customers, we are also proud members of the local communities we serve. During the pandemic, we were fortunate to be able to give back by donating meals to first-line responders. We also provided hundreds of meals to those who were financially impacted by COVID-19. These small gestures were one of the ways we could give back to the communities who have supported and helped us grow our business.
Starting and running a business comes with challenges, which are even more prevalent now with the impacts of COVID-19. It’s important to surround yourself with people that support your vision and want to help you reach your goals. For Seoul Taco, like most restaurants, cash flow is always critical to our business. Using my CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® for business expenses everyday has been a great help in giving me some breathing room while each month brings new financial and operational challenges.
I also earn two American Airlines AAdvantage miles for every $1 I spend on eligible American Airlines purchases and purchases at gas stations, car rental agencies, telecommunication merchants, and cable and satellite providers — it’s a no-brainer to me to earn all those miles.
These miles will help reduce the cost of my future business travel. It’s comforting knowing I can use the miles for my next trip. I really want to visit Seoul again with my miles — I haven’t been there since 2015, and visiting there always gives me inspiration for new menu items.
I’ve been a Citi/AAdvantage cardmember for the last few years. It’s very reassuring to have access to a suite of benefits that help support my small business during a period of so much uncertainty.

There’s no denying that small businesses are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Wall Street Journal, software and business-services provider Womply data suggests as many as one in five small businesses in the United States are closed - many for good.

Citi has a legacy of championing independently owned businesses and is committed to helping them survive and thrive. Citi has funded more than 30,000 loans worth more than $3.4 billion as part of the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program. These loans have gone to small businesses across the country that collectively employ more than 300,000 people.

To help small businesses remain resilient during the pandemic, Citi is harnessing its reach and resources to mobilize customers, partners and employees to support them. During the month of July, Citi and Mastercard donated 5 cents to Start Small Think Big for each qualifying purchase made at small businesses using a select Citi Mastercard up to a maximum of $1MM. Start Small Think Big, is a nonprofit which supports small businesses in underserved communities.

Read more from Citi here.

Image courtesy Seoul Taco.

Related: How you can help small businesses during COVID-19

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases