Save Our Small Biz: A tool to support your favorite small businesses and preserve what makes your community unique


Inspiration/background

The economic toll of coronavirus has been swift and severe. Small businesses around the world have experienced immense financial distress due to the near-instant halt of economic activity. They are struggling to survive: laying off staff, delaying bills and doing whatever it takes to make it through. In these tough times, many have taken to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe.

Despite the immense need, many of these campaigns aren’t close to meeting their goals. We built Save Our Small Biz to increase awareness of these campaigns and give consumers a centralized platform to support the small businesses that make their communities special.

“There are over 14,000 verified small business campaigns. Among those that had been posted for at least 5 days, about a third had reached their goal.” The New York Times


What we built

To solve the awareness issue, we built an easy-to-use interface to see local small business crowdfunding campaigns in a single view. The platform also includes other ways to support your favorite businesses, such as sending support via Venmo. We envision other features as well, which we’ve listed in the section below.

Features:

  • Search: Map view and list view
  • Filters: Keyword/category search to find your favorite businesses
  • Claim Your Business: a simple way for businesses to claim a listing
  • Email signup: Users can sign up to show support to businesses

We wanted to build a business verification feature so that businesses could claim their pages and we could add things like GoFundMe links and other support options, such as Venmo payments. We plan to roll those out in the next version (more on that below under road map).

If a business doesn't have a fundraiser, we have a Support button that allows us to capture emails from interested consumers. The email signup piece is meant as a means for businesses to build up their lists of supporters. We're working on what that means and how those emails will be shared with businesses.

On the back-end, the information is stored in Airtable.


Why we built it

Outside of ordering takeout or shopping online, it’s not readily apparent how consumers can best support businesses near them. GoFundMe doesn’t have a map view, Yelp’s new small business initiative hasn’t fully rolled out and while there are fantastic local resources like bailout.nyc, there’s no centralized resource for crowdfunding campaigns. So we built Save Our Small Biz for locals to have an easy way to do what it takes to save the local businesses that define the personality and character of our neighborhoods.


Next steps/path ahead

We are really pleased with our progress but of course, had a lot of stuff we couldn't get to. We really only scratched the surface of building a platform to connect locals with the businesses that need their support the most.

We have solid momentum and need to do some further testing and tweaking to the interface and functionality. Then we have a comprehensive launch plan to raise awareness about the platform once it’s fully live. We also have a roadmap of future functionality that we want to build.

Our roadmap includes:

  • Iterate our UX, as our front end didn’t get as much love as we hoped
  • Verify your business: We want owners to be able to verify ownership and add other ways to support them outside of crowdfunding --such as direct Venmo links. This hasn't been fully baked and needs to be developed.
  • More robust business profiles
  • Adding other ways to support small businesses: Order delivery/takeout, for example
  • Live donation feed to build urgency and show others saving their local businesses
  • Tracking donations by ZIP code to gamify
  • A blog for small business owners to share best practices on crowdfunding, available resources and other ideas. Something to bring everyone together in a supportive way
  • Resource Navigator: a bot (or person) that helps businesses discover the local/national/international resources available to them

As far as resources, here’s what we need:

  • Continued organic outreach and PR. Primary audience: among locals who want to support struggling businesses in their community; the secondary audience is business owners themselves
  • Advertising to promote the platform beyond our organic outreach and PR efforts
  • Continued support on the technical side to implement our vision

Our launch plan includes:

Social media:

  • Create a presence, including content about individual campaigns to support, best practices crowdfunding, and other content and resources for small businesses
  • Reach out to influencers that have already shared GoFundMes (Kim Kardashian, Edward Norton)

Partnerships:

  • Emails to each city’s Destination Marketing Organizations, and Convention/Visitors Bureaus to ask about co-promotion to raise awareness among locals and business owners
  • Emails to local business organizations to disseminate to their members

Media:

  • Reach out to NY Times journalists who did Crowdfunding article
  • Cision search for relevant journos
  • Local media stations looking for a “positive” news angle for their morning shows
  • Rebecca Jarvis at ABC who did a segment on struggling small businesses

Blog:

  • Curate best practices/resources for running crowdfunding campaigns
  • Perhaps expert perspectives/roundups on other resources for small business owners
  • See what other existing content could be repurposed here

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