As the coronavirus pandemic led to self-isolation and quarantine, many small business owners worried about their futures. Then, in April, Congress created a $2 trillion stimulus package with $349 billion specifically marked for paycheck protection loans. Before many small business owners could navigate the lengthy and confusing application, those funds were gone.
Paul Huynh, a former Google employee and entrepreneur, sat down with his mother to help her register for some of those funds for her small nail salon in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Although she was one of the first to send in an application, she did not receive any money from the stimulus plan.
“I realized quickly that she was not alone in this,” says Huynh. “How can we help these small businesses stay open when they are forced to be closed?”
With this in mind Community Carecard was born.
In short, Community Carecard is a way for businesses who don’t have a digital footprint to sell gift cards online. This allows them to bring in some income even while their doors are shut. These gift cards can then be used by customers once the business reopens, but in the meantime, they can bring in essential income during the shutdown.
In addition toHuynh, Lee Ann Grant, Mike McCormick, and fellow former Googler Peter Szalontay are the brain trust behind the for-profit social enterprise that is meant to be a lifeline for small businesses.
The idea behind the venture is this: If, through social media and networking, enough people can spread the word, a business could sell enough digital gift cards to continue to stay afloat during the shutdown. Then, once its doors are open and it starts to make money again, consumers can use those gift cards to get the goods or services they desire.
Even as states begin to reopen, many businesses will only be allowed to operate in a limited capacity. Community Carecard can help boost their income during that time.
Here are some of the basics to know about Community Carecard.
- It’s completely free for business owners to sign up and use.
- A business doesn’t have to have an electronic gift card system in place to take part.
- Any business across the world listed with Google should be able to sign on, but the company is focusing on populating the United States database as much as possible right now.
- Gift cards are one-time use only, so if a customer spends $22 of a $30 gift card, they won’t be able to redeem the rest of that money. Consider it a donation. Small denominations such as $5 and $10 are available to minimize this.
- Customers have the option to tip on the website, which is another way to donate to the business.
Customers can support their local businesses by nominating them on the website if they are not already listed. The Community Carecard team will reach out to that business to see if they want to join.
If a business is listed, it is easy to purchase a gift certificate in the desired amount. Customers can share the information on social media and simply spread the word — the more people who know about and use the platform, the more good it can do.
“People are looking to have some level of connection and outreach to the people that they serve with their business,” says Huynh, “While we hope the monetary part of this will help, there is also an emotional connection. It can generate a lot of hope and optimism during this time when it is sorely needed.”
Corrections, June 9, 2020: Community Carecard is a for-profit social enterprise. This article previously stated that it is a non-profit. Additionally, one founder’s name was misspelled in a previous version. It is Paul Huynh, not Hyunh. And finally, Mr. Huynh’s mother has a business in Lake Charles, Louisiana, not New Orleans.
Tyler Omoth is a contributor to Codetic.