Businesses impacted by COVID for nearly eight months are turning to GoFundMe to raise needed cash.

Sun Prairie’s Meze Grill owner Ozgur “Figo” Akcay launched a plea Oct. 22 on the site to raise $18,000 to cover rent and other expenses. So far he’s raised $4,761.

“Many people have responded, even people I don’t know from around the country,” Akcay said.

The money will help Akcay pay his rent and back taxes.

GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform that helps individuals, businesses and organizations raise money for all sorts of things. Sun Prairie residents and businesses used the site to raise money to recover from the Sun Prairie gas explosion two years ago.

GoFundMe has seen a bump in use since the coronavirus hit with people needing money for living expenses, medical bills, and to keep businesses open.

Ackay decided to try it out after he saw some popular Madison restaurants impacted from the 2020 pandemic successfully use the site. The Old-Fashioned on the Capital Square is halfway to its $75,000 goal on GoFundMe.

The Mediterranean restaurant at 503 W. Main St. opened in 2018. Akcay recently marked Meze’s second anniversary but with not much to celebrate, thanks to the pandemic.

Under Gov. Evers statewide order, the restaurant is restricted to 25 percent indoor dining capacity.

Akcay reported a boom in business during the summer when he set up an outside dining area, but since temps have cooled down, he’s not had many people dine inside. He expects to switch to carryout and delivery only soon because it just doesn’t make sense to keep inside dining going with paying servers and utilities. Akcay runs the restaurant with help from his wife and nine employees.

Sun Prairie resident Samantha Fiscus tapped into GoFundMe to help keep her new business Duncan’s Dog Daycare in Madison open.

Fiscus left a career to start her dream business and was doing well until COVID-19 hit and demand for dog daycare sank with more people working from home.

Since then the rent, utility, payroll, supplies and tax bills keep piling up but doesn’t qualify for pandemic relief loans and grants because Duncan’s Dog Daycare wasn’t open before COVID-19 hit.

Fiscus has contacted state legislators and the governor to get help for start-up businesses but she said talks between lawmakers have been “dead in the water.”

Since starting her GoFundMe page in July, Fiscus has raised $3,140 toward a $45,000 goal, appealing honestly about the vulnerable spot she was in as a small-business owner. Donations were steady in the beginning but have dropped off since she said.

Fiscus said she’s resourceful and determined to keep the business afloat but more clients don’t come in within the next six months, she’s doubtful of staying open.

“It is really important to support small businesses, especially start-up businesses that aren’t getting the Paycheck Protection Program funding and other government grants,” Fiscus said.

Both Fiscus and Ackay, from Meze, said it’s a boost when people help them out. The Sun Prairie community has supported the restaurant and staff, Ackay, said by ordering food and leaving generous tips—including $100 on one bill. He recognizes that a lot of people are hurting financially during the pandemic but is grateful for any assistance.

“We are trying really hard to stay here so if people feel like donating, we would really appreciate it,” Akcay said.

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