The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to a halt pretty much anything that takes place in person except for essential workers at health care facilities, grocery stores, and other businesses deemed necessary to keep society going.
To keep businesses that are used to engaging with customers at brick-and-mortar spaces in a time when residents are told to stay home, the newly launched Detroit Help Hub from marketing firm 2gathr and online publication Detroitisit hopes to give entrepreneurs a way to connect to customers.
Ivana Kalafatic, founder of both 2gathr and Detroitisit, says since launching on Thursday, 30 entrepreneurs and businesses from a wide variety of sectors including retail, gyms, restaurants, and professional services have signed up. Some of the businesses on the platform include Bon Bon Bon, Marrow, and more. The site aims to be a platform for small businesses to promote their businesses, share their stories on how the pandemic has affected their businesses, and let people know how they can help.
“We’re all learning pretty rapidly that virtual is a salvation at this time,” Kalafatic wrote to Model D in an email. “So with the Detroit Help Hub, now we’ve provided a digital, simple to use, mobile-friendly, location-based service where patrons can shop retailers, hungry folks can order their supper and keep up with their cravings, and events can list all their activities in one spot." Website visitors can donate, buy a gift card, and offer financial support through apps like Venmo or PayPal.
“This is a needed resource and we’ve just begun the project, process, outreach and help for the greater Detroit area,” she said.
The goal of the online hub is “to build business, traction, engagement and support for all the businesses, restaurants, events, in Metro Detroit at this moment now and as we get the city moving again,” Kalafatic said.
During these challenging times, entrepreneurs need community more than ever, she said.
“Most Detroit small businesses or events have taken place in the physical space, they have addresses for patrons to walk through. Currently, that does not exist. And possibly given the way the world is heading, their digital doorstep needs to be the doorbell we ring when we want to buy a coat, order a dinner carry out, take a yoga class.”
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