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Debra Born headshot

NYC Techies Rally to Assist Small Businesses Nationwide

By Debra Born
Small Businesses

Around the globe, retails and restaurants are shutting down as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that is threatening healthcare systems while forcing countless citizens to stay indoors. But the people who are feeling those doors shut the most are those who run and work for small businesses worldwide – as once those doors shut, they may never open again. 

Granted, a host of corporate giants like General Motors are forced to close their doors as well, but many small businesses simply do not have the resources crucial for bouncing back from the catastrophes that COVID-19 is wreaking on both public health and local economies.

The health of the economy is tied to the survival of small businesses 

Small businesses with 500 employees or less are the lifeblood of local economies and workforce. They comprise 99.9 percent of all businesses and (as of 2018) employ almost 59 million workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

As it stands, small businesses are already suffering the effects of the lockdown with no end in sight. Last week, the National Restaurant Association estimated that $225 billion would be lost within the next three months by the restaurant industry alone. The flow of income has dramatically slowed for many shops and restaurants here in the U.S., and it is all too clear that the economy is already burdened by these impacts. 

But now, as these mom-and-pop shops are deep in the struggle to keep their heads above water, the generosity of some small businesses is surprising. Instead of spending all their lockdown time focusing on their bottom line, several businesses are choosing to show support to the local community during the COVID-19 crisis in a big way. 

COVID-19: When the bottom line becomes less important than helping others

A Taco John’s franchise in Kentucky is one of many restaurants providing free meals to seniors -- no questions asked. All seniors have to do is call ahead and pick up the food in the drive-thru. Gov. Andy Beshear applauded the effort and encouraged people to support the restaurant. 

Stories like that of Taco John’s are among the examples of small businesses that are doing what they can to serve the needs of their communities through the shortages. From providing free food to travelers and communities (think, World Central Kitchen) to free hand sanitizer made in-house at Shine Distillery and Grill to cranking out protective masks, small businesses are standing in the gap to provide the resources people need to get by. But who is looking out for the small businesses? 

Supporting small businesses through gift cards 

Many small businesses are turning to social media to ask people to purchase gift cards to help them stay afloat, as it’s become clear that a more widespread, targeted approach is necessary to prevent many locally owned shops and restaurants from closing. 

To that end, web development volunteers in New York City, the U.S. city hit hardest by this public health crisis, responded to this urgent need with a new website called Helpmainstreet.com

This website allows visitors to browse for their favorite small business and purchase a gift card to use later when shops and restaurants are again open. The backers of Helpmainstreet says that merchants keep 100 percent of the proceeds.

A high-level view of small businesses Helpmainstreet.com is trying to keep open during the COVID-19 pandemic
A high-level view of small businesses nationwide Helpmainstreet.com is trying to keep open.

Image: A high-level view of small businesses nationwide Helpmainstreet.com is trying to help keep open.

Helpmainstreet’s homepage is a map of the U.S. pinpointing more than 20,000 small businesses in every state. Visitors also have the option of adding their favorite shop or restaurant to the website if it is not already on the map. 

Niahl Metha, one of the founders of investment company Eniac Ventures, spearheaded Helpmainstreet.com. To do this, Metha reached out to his network of business resources and had the crowdfunding platform up and running in just two days with the help of the tech platform lunchbox.io.

Metha says a monthly donation is another feature that will be added to the website. Full disclosure: Any gift card purchase on HelpMainStreet.com should be considered a donation, according to Mertha. There are no guarantees of a particular business staying afloat after COVID-19 takes its toll.

“You may lose your money,” Mehta told Forbes during a recent interview. “You’re helping these businesses but there’s no guarantee that these businesses can be helped.”

Metha organized the site out of a strong sense of duty to supporting small businesses.

“It’s just our civic duty to be able to use whatever skills you have to be helpful to people in need,” Mehta said to Forbes.

Image credit: Pixabay

Debra Born headshot

Debra is a writer and public relations professional based in Upstate New York. Her other interests include graphic design, photography, nature and animals. You can find her on LinkedIn

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