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Entrepreneur in the Food Field donates to New York hospitals

The coronavirus has been ravaging New York City since March, and local food entrepreneurs stepped in to support healthcare workers on the frontlines. Some have offered free meals, others are packaging to-go bags with ice packs for pick up, and some businesses are modifying their business model to accommodate demands.

Cole Riley, for example, founded the Founders Give, to collect and distribute healthy snacks and food products to hospital staff. Over the course of two months, the initiative provided 1.6 million snacks and beverages from close to 300 brands to 47 hospitals. Contributors have been big business food makers like Chobani and Kind Healthy Snacks, as well as small scale eateries.

Riley explains:

I’ve become the No. 1 distributor of snacks and drinks in the hospitals, donated or otherwise. Hospitals stopped placing orders in early April for regular food orders. They were running out of money. So, I’ve become in many facilities the only source of food coming in. Every night before the next day’s scheduled deliveries, I reach out to each brand and their founder directly to let them know where their product is heading: one pallet to Mount Sinai, 40 cases to NYU Langone, 6 skids to Metropolitan. That type of transparency doesn’t happen in nonprofits.

The pandemic has necessitated an almost constant shift in plans and realities. Some businesses have closed, others are trying to figure it out. For Mr. Riley, the corona has given him a new goal and vision in his work to promote small businesses.

According to Mr. Riley, “There’s an opportunity to take what we’ve been doing in New York with hospitals, expand on it gradually, focus on the CPG brands and founders, make it as easy as possible to give, and I really believe if you bring this community together as a streamlined nonprofit … we can make a huge impact.”

Creativity is the Right Businesses Model for Corona

With the coronavirus lockdown now entering its 10th week, New York City business owners have gotten creative in their attempts to keep customers engaged and buying.

Restaurants remain closed for dining in, but almost all eateries have adopted delivery systems to bring food to diners at home.

Amy Schiappa, the owner of two hair salons in Brooklyn and Manhattan, started selling “color care packages” for customers. She sends each of her clients the customized formulas of their hair color, detailed instructions, and a personal message.

Cleaning services have had to rethink their business model as most homeowners limit people coming into their homes. Aman for Home, for example, transitioned to offering sterilization and disinfection services for the high-traffic areas (entrance ways) of public buildings still in use.

Many recreational stores like toy stores, which rely on customers’ browsing, are now offering virtual shopping. Kids and adults can “walk” through the store via video chat and then opt for curbside pickup or home delivery.

Health and fitness outfits, like gyms and yoga studios, are offering live-streamed classes. New York’s Grassroots Fitness Project  launched new virtual-based classes for kids, in the form of 45-minute video classes, capped at eight children per class.

Small businesses have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus- restrictions. But they are also proving to be clever and resilient. Customers are desperate for “creature comforts” and are happy to see their favorite shops and local businesses providing the services they need.

Corona Comfort Buying: It is Real and It is Preventable

In the midst of a global pandemic and all the hardships of social distancing, it is important to find comfort in the familiar. Hobbies and personal interests are good ways to channel pent up energies (because gyms are closed) and unrelenting anxieties (because this thing is crazy on so many levels). But there is one first-world habit that should be curtailed at this time: retail therapy.

Even as millions of people are unemployed and unsure of how they will pay their bills, online shopping for non-essential goods and services has risen significantly in the last eight weeks. People are buying things they believe will make sheltering at home easier; they are looking to alleviate the pain of all the unknowns. If pre-corona shopping featured panic buying of unnecessary amounts of toilet paper and canned goods, the real-time corona is being marked by impulse purchases and increased spending on luxury items (alcohol being at the top of the list).

This behavior is dangerous for those who already struggle with financial health; it threatens even those who know how to handle their money, but are struggling to find strength and control in these uncertain times. There are many things driving this behavior, chief among them is boredom. Nobody has anywhere to go or anyone to spend time with, so they are finding solace and excitement in the online retailers. Getting a package delivered during this outbreak is giving people the thrills they would have found elsewhere, in healthier activities, before the pandemic.

The most important thing any quarantined shopaholic should do is identify their triggers. If the new sweater purchase is being fueled by anxiety, or the new kitchen appliance is being considered because of boredom, it is time to take a break from the screen. Another critical step is finding alternative ways of getting the same satisfaction. Exercise, meditation, laughing with a friend, or even cooking a wholesome meal, can provide the same rush as spending money. Wish lists are also a good way of curating desired items without actually spending money. By putting the item on their list, consumers feel like they are one step closer to owning it, but giving themselves time to think about the actual purchase.

Budgeting is the most strategic way of fighting against corona overspending. Build a budget that allows for some splurging, but not excessive squandering of cash. Financial advisors recommend limiting online purchases to a specific dollar amount or number of items. The goal is to train the stuck-at-home, looking-for- comfort consumer to buy one thing OR the other, but not everything in their cart. Setting specific times for online shopping also reduces mindless browsing. Staying focused and realistic about immediate needs, versus wants and long-term nice to haves, ensure intentional shopping.

This is certainly a challenging time. Take steps to stay physically and fiscally safe to ensure your wellbeing now and in the future.

Budgeting in a Crisis: Dos and Don’ts

It may seem strange to suggest a budget overhaul at a time of so much uncertainty. But that is exactly when these kinds of changes can be most beneficial and impactful.

In general, many regular expenses have ceased to be a concern during the corona pandemic. There are virtually no restaurant meals, mani-pedis, or gym classes happening right now. But that money really isn’t enough to navigate unemployment or a recession.  Here are a few tips on saving during a crisis:

Tackle the Two at the Top

Intentionally review your budget and find the three biggest expenses. For most people, these will be housing, transportation, and food. Then decide on two of these expenses that can be reduced or revamped. Car owners should consider reducing or even canceling the insurance for cars they aren’t using. Decide on a few low-cost local takeout menus and order as a treat, not as a default dinner option. Homeowners who have good credit and are still lucky enough to have steady incomes should consider refinancing their mortgage while rates are low. Tenants with a rental lease should talk with their landlords and negotiate an arrangement that makes sense for both parties.

Be Deliberate about Saving

A crisis is not the time to undertake a major D.I.Y. home renovation. Nor is it the time to buy the fancy cooking equipment to indulge a gourmet cooking hobby. It is the time to invest in health and fitness, including financial wellbeing. Money saved should be traceable and accounted for.

Need vs. Want

In times of crisis, most people evaluate what is really important to them. But when it comes to making money decisions, the lines between need and want can be hard to draw. Review all the “essentials” like cable subscriptions (opt for streaming platforms), birthday gifts (call and/or send a handmade gift), date nights (do them at home for a fraction of the cost) and modify accordingly.

Speak Up

Most service providers would much rather retain a customer at a lower monthly rate than lose that customer entirely. Consumers who need to cut costs should contact providers and discuss alternatives. While some restructuring might incur interest or finance charges, many companies are waving those now too.

Keep What is Critical

Home repairs are inevitable. The fridge doesn’t know there is a global pandemic; the roof isn’t aware of the economic recession. Make sure there is enough money in the budget for these maintenance jobs. Don’t remove or reduce comprehensive car insurance; hold on to life insurance policies that can be a hassle to restore if canceled. should be preserved. The critical should also include at least one “Happy” to keep as well. Don’t wipe out every joyful budget line. Make sure to “splurge” on at least one thing that makes corona, quarantine, and social distancing more manageable.

Earth Day 2020 goes Digital

Earth Day Corona 2020

Every year, on April 21 the world gathers to celebrate Earth Day. It is the day we are encouraged to think about the environment, consider the footprint we are leaving on this planet, and measures we can take to ensure global health.

Earth Day 2020 was different, considering the novel coronavirus. Isolation regulations made it hard to enjoy nature. School closures kept kids from learning about conservation.   

Historic New York institutions would not let Earth Day’s 50th anniversary go uncelebrated though. They took the events online. Hikes, trivia games, sessions with scientists, and rocket launches were all made available to the public via the world wide web.

Virtual hike of a New York City trail during Earth Day 2020

The American Museum of Natural History hosted a full day festival, that took visitors from their home all the way to Mars. The Staten Island Museum used Earth Day as an opportunity to launch an interactive science fair, with more than 20 instructional videos on environmental skills, using natural resources for everyday needs, beekeeping, and raising butterflies.

Even the city’s parks offered virtual tours and visiting opportunities to rare New York gems like the Alley Pond Giant, a massive tulip tree in Alley Pond Park in Queens that dates back about 350 years. A tree-themed meditation moment was also introduced.

New Yorkers Don’t Give Up Coffee, Not Even to Corona

New York certainly earned its name as the “city that never sleeps.” There are more coffee selling venues per capita in New York than in any other American city. It is a deeply-entrenched testament to the coffee-fueled culture of brews and bagels.

And even as New Yorkers have been practicing social distancing for nearly a month now, grabbing a coffee is one ritual they aren’t giving up so quickly.  Governor Cuomo named coffee shops “essential retail,” which allows them to remain open. Customers are lined up six feet apart to take their lattes, whipped drinks, and teas to go. Some shops are offering delivery options.

For many New Yorkers, their morning fix is now a mix of a valiant effort to preserve routine and a charitable gesture to save local businesses.

Tips from Those Already Working Remotely

The coronavirus has forced many companies, universities, and businesses to transition to working from home. Nearly one quarter of the American workforce already works from home, some partially and others on a full-time basis, and can offer substantial guidance for those workers and managers working apart for the first time. Here are some tips from those for whom working from home is business as usual.

Working remotely can be done successfully

Go Team, Go! The collegiality and peer interaction that exists and most office settings is hard to replicate when working from home. But with the right technologies in place, any remote team can have meaningful collaborations and exchanges. Dedicate time and focused meetings between colleagues so that everyone gets to know their teammates and build relationships.

Be Ready for Surprises When employees work from home, in their “natural” environment, they tend to be less inhibited and more creative. Managers should applaud a worker’s focus and offer optimal flexibility to see high-quality output. Similarly, when team members are not confined to a cubicle or specific work structure, they can explore all areas of the company’s work and identify new areas where their talents can shine.

 Face It! via Video Use a video platform for as many meetings as possible. Do not rely on emails as a primary form of communication. Remote face-to-face meetings are a powerful way to connect, and encourage accountability and participation. Most platforms support co-working on shared documents, screen sharing, and other collaborations. Utilize these features to simulate in-office experiences.

Clarity is Key Whether as a manager or an employee, make your work-from-home expectations clear. Be explicit about your availability and be intentional about the work you do. Stick to scheduled meetings and insist on full attention. If you need some flexibility at this time, ask for it. Bosses should do everything they can to accommodate. If your boss has given you some leeway, don’t abuse it.

Business Leaders Contribute to the Corona Cause

business leaders donate to corona cause

The world’s richest and most successful business leaders are donating billions of dollars to fight the novel coronavirus. As hospitals throughout New York and across the country scramble to find enough respirators, masks, and protective equipment for their staff, ultra-high net worth individuals are stepping up to the task.

business leaders have joined the fight against corona

Joe Tsai and his wife Clara Wu Tsai have contributed 2.6 million masks, 170,000 goggles and 2,000 ventilators to New York hospitals. The primary benefactors of the equipment will be medical facilities in underserved communities, including Jacobi Medical Center and Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx, and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. Tsai owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson vowed not to layoff any of the employees of his now shuttered facilities. He also contributed 2 million masks and 20,000 protective suits to first responders and non-profit humanitarian aid organizations.

Len Blavatnik, the chairman of Access Industries investment firm donated $2 million to Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. His family foundation also made significant contributions to the National Health Service in the U.K. and Jewish communities in New York and London.

Former New York mayor and media tycoon Michael Bloomberg invested $40 million to prevent the spread of corona in developing countries. He also made a $75 million gift to establish a fund offering no-interest loans to New York City nonprofits.

Cumulatively, some $130.75 million in supplies and monetary assistance have been collected in the fight against the virus.

Bicycle Shops: A NYC Essential Business

While most of New York City’s businesses have ceased or slowed operations during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mayor de Blasio designated bike shops as an essential business allowed to remain open.

New York City bike-shops deemed essential business

More people have taken up cycling as their transportation method of choice, rather than risk infection on subways and buses. For these commuters, cycling has the added benefit of exercise as the gyms are closed. There has also been a spike in bicycle delivery services, as New Yorkers are increasingly ordering in their meals.

The bike-shops have, for the most part, found ways to accommodate social distancing regulations. Some mandate only one customer in the store at a time. Others are open by appointment only. Online orders and at-home pick up are also available.

New York’s Oldest Candy Shop Going Online

Candy

All of New York City’s businesses are finding creative ways to navigate the novel virus that has brought the world to a standstill.

Economy Candy, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is the oldest candy shop in New York, with 2,000+ types of candy from around the globe featured in the wall-to-wall displays.

In 1937, during the Great Depression, Moishe (Morris) Cohen’s candy cart- within his hat/shoe repair shop- provided treats to those struggling to find or maintain work. Now run by Moishe’s grandson Mitchell, who took over the business from his father Jerry, Economy Candy has been forced to close the retail store and turn entirely to online business.

candy is a great way to cheer up a loved one

Mitchell, like his grandfather, wants Economy Candy to bring cheer to those in need. He and his wife are doing all they can to keep the business going with their new ‘CandyCare Packs.’ $35.00 can get you, or someone you love, a Basic Pack of candy/chocolate, a Health Nut Pack of dried fruits and nuts, or a Combo Pack with a little bit of everything. Recess Packs, filled with toys and treats, are a good way to bring some schooltime fun to the current homeschooling realities. Easter and Passover Packs are also available. The Cohen’s are also working to establish a fund for the store employees who have been out of work during the crisis.