Community Highlight: Send Chinatown Love

In late February, the United States hadn’t yet felt the full effects of COVID-19 that would later become a massive, months-long pandemic. Nevertheless Square, a popular Point of Sale provider for small- and medium-sized businesses, saw the signs and held a meeting then to determine how they would help their customers moving forward. Thus they shifted focus to begin setting up donation systems and gift cards for their merchants to ensure they still had certain revenue streams moving forward.

Justin Mckibben, a software engineer with Square, recognized how this primarily affected businesses who had the technological capability to accept donations and gift cards via the web and a compatible Point of Sale system. In response he connected with engineers, designers and other people he knew in the industry to found the organization Send Chinatown Love.

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Now they have a team of thirty all working hard on their own time to support their local, New York-based community. In areas like Chinatown, many businesses are cash-only and don’t have the capability to support systems like Square. This also means that they can’t receive the financial assistance that these alternative revenue streams provide. Send Chinatown Love invented a different approach so that they can better help that community. On their webpage, they advertise how out of 6,000 businesses in Chinatown, 700 are restaurants and only 94 remain open during COVID-19. They seek to help more of them stay afloat through this crisis.

Because many of these businesses don’t have phone or internet, this initiative connects them to these necessary channels so that they can expand their audience and generate revenue without having to invest money they don’t have into new technology. The goal, they say, is “building an online presence for small businesses in Chinatown” so they can have access to the same resources that businesses like Square provide to restaurants that have the capability to host their services. Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t.

Send Chinatown Love goes directly to off-the-grid restaurants and finds out exactly what they need to thrive, then builds the resources for them. They design custom webpages for their customers that cater to each one’s individual needs and ultimately sets these restaurants up with the ability to take donations and sell gift cards or vouchers. So that restaurants don’t need to upgrade their technology in order to handle these transactions, Send Chinatown Love manages all of it and then pays each restaurant 100% of the proceeds in cash—a major factor that sets this effort apart from other fundraising organizations, because they meet restaurants’ needs using the technology that they already have.

Marketing

Send Chinatown Love also handles all the marketing for these businesses so they don’t have to take on the financial burden of starting and conducting successful advertising campaigns. This way they can build an online presence without having to pay for a new system, upgrade their technology or invest money in getting new customers. This is especially important now when restaurants desperately need business but don’t have spare money to run their own campaigns.

In addition to handling all of the social media marketing for these companies, Send Chinatown Love develops SEO on the new websites thus making them more widely discoverable on search engines and ensuring they’re included in directories of other local businesses nearby.

Send Chinatown Love doesn’t just set up these programs; they also run them on the restaurants’ behalves. Additionally, they teach the restaurant staff how to use their new voucher program and even hand-deliver them the proceeds in cash or check so they don’t need to worry about having a compatible POS system for payment. These restaurants don’t have to take credit cards at all and can continue operating off-the-grid.

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Other Initiatives

Aside from setting up marketing channels and webpages for Chinatown restaurant, the organization also works in other ways to assist small business owners in the community. They seek a good way to help restaurants affected by the pandemic while still protecting their own employees’, as well as their customers’, continued health and safety. That’s why they additionally…

  • Built a resource center that provides help in both English and Chinese.

To best ensure their merchant partners get the best assistance possible, they’ve staffed their resource center with both English and Chinese speakers so they can communicate more effectively with restaurant partners. This center teaches restaurants how to reopen and restructure after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, helping them prepare for a more successful future.

  • Encourage restaurants to set up delivery.

Restaurants all over the world are generating additional revenue throughout this pandemic by setting up delivery systems. When takeout services aren’t enough, delivery can help create additional revenue streams after dine-in services are forced to close or operate at reduced capacity. Delivery is an effective way to continue serving loyal customers without compromising social distance measures.

  • Design merchandise.

Send Chinatown Love makes merchandise for every individual restaurant partner, opening yet another revenue stream for them. Additionally they use logos and other popular aspects of these businesses to promote them on social media and create specialized merchandise that will best appeal to their loyal customers.

  • Gift-a-meal program.

They’re working on setting up a gift-a-meal program which will allow customers to buy someone else food. They’re aiming to direct this program at Chinatown’s senior population and well as families in the community who lost work because of COVID-19.

  • Work with restaurants to build the resources they need.

Every business has its own diverse set of needs and wants. For example, some aren’t comfortable accepting donations so the organization only sets them up to accept gift cards. Later, once the owners recognize that Send Chinatown Love is willing to do all of the work for them and trusts that they have these businesses’ best interests at heart, they are more receptive to other beneficial channels that the organization suggests.

Get Involved

Send Chinatown Love is looking for volunteers to assist their efforts. Unlike many other initiatives they’re not in need of healthcare workers, food runners or people to pack meals. Instead they recruit software engineers, illustrators, product designers and more so they can continue designing webpages and setting up online ordering systems for merchants affected by COVID-19 in Chinatown.

They’re also calling for speakers and translators fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tagalong or other languages spoken in East or Southeast Asia. The initiative works to help businesses in their language, in their way. They specialize their assistance to each restaurant’s individual needs, and those intricacies can best be communicated in their native tongue.

Individuals and organizations hoping to partner with Send Chinatown Love can join the effort by raising awareness and letting people know that this organization exists as well as what they’re doing to support the community. Doing so helps restaurants connect with the organization and also informs individuals about the cause so that they can reach out and notify businesses they know would benefit from this assistance.

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Send Chinatown Love keeps a running update on their website about how much money they’ve raised, how many restaurants they’ve helped and the total amount of vouchers and donations sold. Since their launch, they’ve helped restaurants garner nearly $8K. They’re continuing to help individuals in the New York community gain access to their services via promotions. They’ve even added Black Lives Matter resources to their website beside the links published about the pandemic.

They pour their time and resources into helping the Chinatown community and specifically small businesses and restaurants struggling throughout this tumultuous time. Consider donating your time and resources, too, if you’re able, by buying vouchers, gift cards or sending donations to Chinatown restaurants in need. Help out here.

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