Like looking through an eerie kaleidoscope, the effects of COVID-19 are unimaginably manifold. On the one end, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is causing thousands of deaths at a microscopic level. On the other, it’s setting off macroeconomic earthquakes. In between these two poles, however, the impact of the pandemic on our immediate surroundings is all the more palpable. Communities worldwide are hit as local businesses of all verticals – whether it’s retail, hospitality or entertainment – are suffering under social distancing and lockdown quarantines. Many of our favourite spots from cafés to bakeries to cinemas may not make it out the other side.
In addition to government and EU financial aid packages, there has been a worldwide movement of grassroots solidarity and impressive bootstrap support for businesses of all stripes. Many great digital initiatives conceived and facilitated by neighbourhood networks, creative crowds, tech talents or marketing magicians – and of course the entrepreneurs suffering under COVID-19 themselves.
Here at DCMN we have compiled all of these movements under the umbrella hashtag #CloseBuy. We want to use our digital and marketing expertise to help struggling brands and communities around the world, garnering support for these vital initiatives. After all, what is a local community without its local businesses?
Here are some examples of initiatives supporting affected SMEs from around the world. If you are able, we encourage you to support these vital projects.
Atento helps local businesses make some income while they are closed. The Atento Plug&Play portal solution enables municipalities, companies and local entrepreneurs to easily launch a portal where vouchers for local businesses are being sold. Atento is trusted by 9800 local businesses and over 35 portal partners, including Sparkasse Bank, Helfen.München and Helfen.Berlin.
Faithful to the ‘serve don’t sell’ mindset of social and economic support ecosystems these days, businesses can join the service free of charge, and start selling gift cards online with a minimal commission rate. Feel free to reach out to them to find out more at email@example.com.
nebenan.de – Kauf nebenan! (Germany)
Kauf nebenean! is an initiative run by German neighbourhood network nebenan.de. You can support your favorite shops either by buying a voucher or by making a donation through a cooperation with betterplace.me.
The initiative is supported by Deutsche Bank, Postbank and VISA – who have pledged to double the amount spent on both vouchers and donations. The initial cap of 500k euros was reached after only four days, while the total amount collected has surpassed an impressive 1.2 million euros.
Video consultations are an essential tool to help connect doctors with patients – treating, diagnosing and following their condition at home while limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Doctolib, a French firm providing online consultation management solutions for health professionals, decided to make its video platform available free of charge to all doctors in France, to help curb the impact of the virus in the country. This way Doctolib makes medical consultation available to many more people and is keeping 115,000 healthcare professionals safe during this critical time.
In another example of the current ‘serve don’t sell’ spirit, UK healthtech startup Patchwork.Health has made its COVID-19 staffing solution freely available to all NHS Trusts to support the UK healthcare system in the ongoing pandemic.
Patchwork’s technology allows hospitals to advertise urgent shift vacancies to tens of thousands of qualified medical professionals through the company’s partnership with the British Medical Journal.
The London-based startup has also won the support of Wagestream and Truu ID to further ease the burden on the UK healthcare systems and its staff. Wagestream will enable clinicians to access their wages as soon as they need them, and Truu ID will enable the instant passporting of credentials, helping Trusts around the UK to validate clinicians and onboard them in as little time as two minutes.
Kabbage – Help Small Businesses (US)
Digital SME lender Kabbage launched a platform that allows consumers to buy gift certificates to support local small businesses across the United States during the coronavirus crisis. Through Kabbage Payments, small businesses can sell gift certificates ranging from 15 to 500 US dollars on the platform. The proceeds are transferred to the recipient within one business day of purchase.
The platform was created by one hundred Kabbage employees who came together to launch it in only three days. The company partnered with other fintech companies, like Finix, Lendio and Fundera, that have helped get the site up and running in such a short period of time.
Update: US SMEs can also apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans to cover payroll and other expenses.
Support Your Locals (Netherlands)
In the Netherlands, as in many other regions, local producers and restaurant suppliers have been hit especially hard by the economic impact of the corona crisis because the hospitality sector is hibernating and now they have lots of fresh produce they can’t sell.
Supportlocals.nl decided to cut out the middle(wo)man, so to speak. Customers can order different grocery boxes full of products normally delivered straight to the catering industry. They started in Amsterdam but are looking to expand further. Follow #supportyourlocals to see which initiatives are already there or report your own.
Yoco – Support Small (South Africa)
In South Africa, small-business payments startup Yoco has set up a directory where local businesses across the country can be listed for free. All Yoco merchants are able to offer vouchers and set up a donation page. That’s not all: Yoco also issued a directive to clients to encourage customers to use the contactless payment option on its point of sale machines. The startup has also accelerated development of a remote payment product that would enable transfers on its client network via a weblink. Disclaimer: We’re happy to be able to count Yoco as one of our clients.
Lulalend – Small Business Unlocked (South Africa)
Digital lender Lulalend launched a Facebook community to help SMEs in South Africa through the current crisis. The forum is designed to connect business owners so they can share their challenges, tips and tricks, as well as review and promote fellow SMEs that are still open and trading during the lockdown. It’s called SA Small Business Unlocked. They also share up to date practical information for SMEs to steer their way through these tough times, including expert advice and live Facebook Q&A sessions with recognised experts on relevant topics. They have also put together and are consistently updating a blog post with the most important resources and up-to-date info around small business funding, regulations and government aid during COVID-19.
ACT Grants (India)
This initiative combines supporting local SMEs with the fight against COVID-19: India’s startup founder and VC community has set up ACT Grants to provide funding to NGOs, startups and SMEs who have ideas that could help combat the pandemic with immediate impact. This includes contributions to spread prevention, disease management, support for healthcare professionals, mental health or others. The programme has received 1200 applications and funded 27 projects so far.