Platform aims to connect people with businesses in the area that are struggling to stay afloat
Editor’s note: This story was produced and first published by the Vancouver Business Journal, www.vbjusa.com. It is published here with full attribution to and permission of the Vancouver Business Journal and Editor Joanna Yorke.
With the temporary closure of dozens of businesses in Washington state due to the impacts of coronavirus, numerous local businesses in the Clark County area are struggling just to make ends meet. Some of the businesses that are struggling the most include ones that offer entertainment such as movie theaters, along with businesses that are service based like salons.
However, a local business owner may have come up with a way to help some of these struggling businesses that people may not even realize are losing large amounts of money. Joey Randazzo, owner of Becoming Media – a marketing agency in the Vancouver area – decided to create a platform that will make it easy for consumers to find businesses in their area that are in need of some extra support during this uncertain time.
“A lot of local businesses are having challenges right now,” Randazzo said. “A challenge that my fiancé and I saw, when trying to buy some extra gift cards, take out, etc., we didn’t know which businesses need some extra support right now. We can go on UberEats and order food, and maybe one business is doing great, getting lots of orders – but maybe a different one is really struggling right now. The same with businesses like boutique shops, maybe some have great social media following, they have a huge email list and ask for help through that, but maybe others don’t have that. What are they supposed to do? How do we know which businesses need support?”
So, Randazzo decided to work on building a platform that will hopefully solve this problem. The website, thelocalyou.com, will offer local Vancouver businesses the ability to share their story, show a video that shows how they have been affected by COVID-19 and allows them to share a specific goal for their business (maybe they want to sell $500 in gift cards, maybe they need three extra take out orders a day or maybe they just need some donations).
“People who want to support these businesses can then easily find the businesses on the site, see the stories of the businesses around them, see the needs of the businesses and then can help support them,” Randazzo said.
The beta version of the website launched early this week, with three area businesses to kick it off – Magenta Theater, Vancouver Wellness Studio and The Vancouver Business Journal.
Magenta Theater, located on Main Street in Vancouver, has been hit hard during all of this. As Magenta Executive Artistic Director Jaynie Roberts pointed out, Magenta depends on having audiences come to the theater to see plays, improv shows and children’s programs. The actors and production team members are all volunteers, and right now, of course, they can’t put on any plays.
“We had Much Ado About Nothing in its fourth week of rehearsals when we had to cease business,” Roberts said. “Rehearsals came to a grinding halt, as did finishing the set, the costumes and the props. Our hope is that we can still perform the play in June, but even if we can, not all the original actors will be available – thus recasting will need to happen. If June is an option, we can push the original June production (Wake Up Darling) to August … and then the remainder of the year’s Main Stage shows should be all right.”
“If June is not an option, then one of the remaining Main Stage shows will need to be canceled, causing a $25,000 loss for us,” Roberts continued. “Each cancellation of a Main Stage show will result in a $25,000 loss … and there are a total of four remaining for the year.”
In addition to these losses, Roberts said all improv shows are on hold (a predicted loss of $8,000), TOTS – Magenta’s children’s program – is on hold (a predicted $9,000 loss) and staged readings or “Black Chair Projects,” are also on hold (a predicted $5,000 loss). Roberts also pointed out that season ticket holders have $32,000 worth of tickets that they could ask for refunds for – none have yet. If patrons do start to ask for money back, she said they will offer them the option to roll their season tickets (or portions of them) into the 2021 season.
On top of these and other losses, property taxes are due and rent continues to be due.
“How can people help? By not asking for their money back. By continuing to hang in there with us. And by buying gift certificates, for any amount, via our website, magentatheater.com,” Roberts said.
As a service-based business, Vancouver Wellness Studio has also suffered numerous losses during this time.
“At our foundation, VWS is a place for human to human connection, and collaboration between providers, patients and students,” said VWS Owner Kendall Hagensen. “We are a multidisciplinary team of trauma-trained healthcare professionals and teachers. We haven’t lost this, we’ve just shifted how we offer our services for the time being to meet you where you are, which is at home. However, being a service-based business, we’ve lost a large portion of our income in this time of transition. As the owner, I am working hard to keep our amazing team employed. We are getting creative and collaborating more than ever to continue to provide high quality healthcare to our community.”
Hagensen said they are asking the Vancouver community to help by purchasing gift cards, participate in Telehealth services and participate in livestream classes.
“All of our services are now available through Telehealth – mental health counseling, couples counseling, trauma therapy, naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine, bodywork, nutrition counseling and fitness training,” Hagensen said. “All of our weekly yoga and dance classes are being live-streamed in real time. Students are able to connect with the teacher and each other, and ask questions throughout the class. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to continue our services online, and are already enjoying connecting with many of you in this new format.”
Randazzo said thelocalyou.com website is basically like “Yelp meets GoFundMe or Kickstarter.”
“The idea is to get 20 or so businesses on it (the site) in the Vancouver area by the end of this week, and grow it here in the Vancouver area,” Randazzo said. “And if it works here, there’s no reason why it couldn’t work for every city in the country. We just need to get consumers here in Vancouver to know that it exists, support these businesses and get some traction.”
Businesses can email Randazzo directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to join the platform. They can also apply to join on their own at https://thelocalyou.com/submit-listing-2/.