Three Johns Hopkins Carey Business School students have launched an intrepid effort to support small businesses throughout the city during the economic upheaval and mandatory closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stand By Baltimore allows participating businesses throughout Baltimore City to sell gift cards to area residents who can redeem them either immediately (if the business is open) or once the crisis has resolved. It was launched by Carey grad students Rie Tai, Michael Yong, and Priyanka Mysore.
"Last week when restaurants and businesses had to close down indefinitely, we wanted to find a way to support our favorite local places," explained Tai. "I found a pre-meal ordering initiative in Japan which I thought we could adapt to our community. We then talked with several business owners about developing a platform that would best suit their needs as well and developed Stand By Baltimore."
Those businesses, in turn, promoted the effort among their Small Business Community on Facebook.
In all, more than 50 businesses—including restaurants, clothing stores, hair salons, and gift shops—are listed on the site, with links to the businesses' websites and options to purchase gift cards. The platform supports businesses throughout Baltimore's thriving and diverse neighborhoods, including Canton, Fells Point, Federal Hill, Riverside, Hampden, Charles Village, and Mt. Washington.
Not only does the site aggregate a list of businesses that offer gift card options, it also provides instructions for those that currently do not feature that capability to market themselves in this fashion.
"We're constantly thinking of ways to improve what the platform can offer," said Mysore. "We'd like Stand By Baltimore to evolve as the needs of small business and their customers shift over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, buying multiple gift cards or buying them every week is one way to ensure that your favorite restaurant or store receives sustainable cash flow."
Added Yong: "We want to equip all businesses with the same capabilities to offer gift cards and provide another marketing opportunity for everyone. Next steps are to promote Stand By Baltimore even further and collect more restaurant and store listings."