Just one week ago, Friday March 13, 2020, Kevin Weatherman, Oleg Kogan and I went on our weekly #pitchandrun in NYC, and discussed what we could do to help those in need during the COVID-19 crisis. Later that day, we saw this tweet:
Suddenly a 💡went off! A “gift card” was actually the best no-interest loan, a “first principles” way to put cash into merchant bank accounts ASAP. After a bit of research, we determined there was no comprehensive destination or aggregator for merchant gift cards so we decided to build it. Our friend Lyel Resner spun up a Slack with 400 activists and technologists to re-activate some of the civic energy that we saw in the NYC Tech community after Hurricane Sandy. And from there we rallied about a dozen incredible volunteers across 3 days and 2 sleepless nights to build @helpmainstreet. The rest is history.
America’s small businesses are the beating heart of our economy. They cut across every industry, from retail and gyms to bars and restaurants. In total, 31M small businesses employ over 60M people, almost half the total U.S. workforce.
Small business are not just an economic growth engine. They are also part of our social fabric too. We rely on small businesses so often, for so many things, that bartenders and waiters and baristas become our friends. People we regularly see who reliably provide us with delicious meals, cold drinks and other services, always with a smile.
This is why we started @helpmainstreet. The COVID-19 crisis is leading to lockdowns across the country. While this is the medically necessary step to take, we cannot forget the economic consequences to our local businesses who we frequent, and love.
Thank you to the incredible volunteers on this project, who developed, QA’d, designed and shipped helpmainstreet.com in under 72 hours:
Team Lunchbox, Eniac Ventures, Oleg Kogan, Kevin Weatherman, Brian Sirgutz, Dmitry Koltunov, Tejpaul Bhatia, Lyel Resner, Shilpi Roongta, Shala Burroughs, Tyzayah Gold Kiser, Bing Chou, Mitul Desai, Kunal Modi, Mike Krieger, Reshma Saujani, James Allen, the Boulder Colorado Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Ravi Bhalla (Hoboken, NJ), Mayor Michael Tubbs (Stockton, CA) and counting…
Also special thanks to Anthony Ha @ Techcrunch, Monica Melton @ Forbes, Priv Bradoo @ Buzzfeed, Ryan Deffenbaugh @ Crain’s New York, Chris Messina for ‘hunting’ us on Product Hunt, Google Small Business, Andrew Yang and Jack Dorsey for finding us first and providing necessary air cover. The more reach, the more gift cards purchased and merchants crowdsourced.
If you’re a merchant with a gift card program, please jump on helpmainstreet.com and see if your venue is listed. If it isn’t, click the“Don’t see your favorite business?” button and fill out your details. You should see your venue listed shortly or someone will be back to you within 48 hours.
If you’re a merchant without a gift card program, you can set up your own gift card (at Square for example) and then do the above.
If you’re a consumer, we hope you will hop on, share our site to you friends and across social media, buy a few gift cards now — for use later — and give a critical cash infusion to some of your favorite merchants. Our site is nationwide — with 10,000 merchants and growing. 100% of all proceeds go to the merchant of your choice, we are merely a pass-through-destination that collects $0, just routes traffic.
If you are connected to a Mayor’s office, Governor’s office, City Chamber of Commerce- reach out at email@example.com. All of our data is open source and we’d love to share with any partners (the more the merrier since the merchants see more distribution!) and click here for a simple google sheets template for anyone to bulk upload merchants we don’t currently have listed.
We have a lofty roadmap and are always looking for amazing volunteers to join our Slack channel and see how they can pitch in.
Thank you for letting us do a small part and we hope you will share our service broadly to help to provide critical cash support for local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. We are powered by Americans 🇺🇸, built for the world.
Please be safe out there. 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾
Team Main Street