Emergence Baltimore, a non-profit that promotes local stores, is working to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on Baltimore’s small businesses. The News-Letter sat down with Emergence Baltimore’s President Kevin Carter and Social Media Lead Ali Rachidi to hear about its programs.
According to Rachidi, who graduated from Hopkins in 2019, Emergence Baltimore is currently working on three projects: the Buy Local Business Navigator, a database of Baltimore businesses where consumers can search by business type and product; A Force for Local, which pairs volunteers with small businesses looking for help with marketing and web development; and BMore Baskets, which allows customers to purchase themed baskets full of goods from various Baltimorean businesses.
Carter stressed the importance of promoting these programs during the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, sales in November and December alone account for nearly 20% of most stores’ annual profits. Additionally, a growing number of these sales are being made online.
The goal of Emergence Baltimore, Carter emphasized, is to support small businesses during a time of great need.
“Emergence Baltimore now is really dedicated to being a digital support service for our local businesses in this really crucial time,” he said. “We realized that if businesses are going to make it to 2021, they have to really be able to thrive and make the most of the November and December big sales months.”
A Force for Local allows small businesses owners to utilize volunteer expertise in bolstering their internet presence. According to Carter, Emergence Baltimore has already matched 17 volunteers with small businesses looking for help with social media marketing, web design and content creation.
Carter noted that Emergence Baltimore’s model has been adapting to the constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions. Most recently, the team has modified its strategy to account for the fact that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called for the end of indoor and outdoor dining.
“We quickly scrambled to create an explore local restaurants section on Buy Local Baltimore, so now people can say ‘I’m looking to eat Mediterranean food in Hampden’ and they can see ‘these are the three restaurants I can take-out from,’” he said. “So even though they can’t dine there, they can still support the restaurant during its biggest time of need.”
The Buy Local Business Navigator currently has 327 restaurants and 233 small businesses in its database and the platform allows businesses to add themselves to the website. As of Dec. 14, the website has had over 1,000 unique visits.
Although Emergence Baltimore’s current initiatives are focused on holiday shopping, Rachidi is confident that the organization will continue to support Baltimore businesses come January.
“We actually just got our 501(c)(3) status confirmed, so we are now an official nonprofit,” he said. “Ultimately three months, six months from now, even if we’re not working on these exact initiatives, we’re still going to be fulfilling our mission of helping small businesses in whatever capacity we can.”