The pandemic has hit small businesses especially hard.
But this UNC-Chapel Hill professor is determined to change that.
Enter Brij, a centralized online platform where consumers can support their favorite local shops and restaurants.
“Small businesses are extremely critical to the infrastructure of our local communities, and we need to do something collectively to help them,” Dr. William Putsis, professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC and Brij co-founder. “We are providing somewhere central to go do just that.”
Three out of every ten small businesses in the U.S. say they likely won’t survive 2021 without additional government assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank shows. Considering there are roughly 30 million small businesses in the U.S., that means upwards of 9 million small firms are at risk of closing for good this year.
“Brij is changing the game by giving small businesses the opportunity to give something back in return for community support,” Putsis said.
How it works
A combination of e-commerce, social media, and networking platforms, the patent-pending Brij provides an access point for communities to financially invest in a business featured on the site. Described as a “something-for-something” model, the business then has the chance to give something back.
For instance, a bar could name a signature drink after someone as a Brij Promotion. A restaurant could offer a virtual cooking lesson in return for a contribution. A barbershop could offer a complimentary add-on service or it could be as simple as offering a $65 gift card for a $50 contribution.
The platform also allows stronger businesses to assist those still in recovery by discussing everything from partnerships to best practices.
Meanwhile, there is no cost for small businesses to sign up, and Brij doesn’t take a cut of any community contributions.
“Brij has been funded entirely out of our own pockets,” Putsis said. “We are giving our time and expertise as a way to give back to all of these small businesses that have been there for us over the years.”
Fundraising from investors, however, is in the cards.
“It’s no question that scaling to a national level is the most important part of Brij’s roadmap for the future,” he said. “Scale is critical to make these connections happen on a regular basis and is the kind of opportunity that can help small businesses succeed long after a crisis has ended. The goal is to have this platform be relevant and thrive once the pandemic has passed.”
Local Durham businesses like Guglhupf Bakery, NuvoTaco, Convivio, and Cocoa Cinnamon have already joined the platform.
“The pandemic threw everyone a curveball, for sure,” said Claudia Cooper, who owns the well-known Guglhupf Bakery with locations in Durham and Chapel Hill. “We’ve maintained through this experience, and as we see light at the end of the tunnel. We see Brij as a way to do some good in our community, with our community, for our community. Our promotion on Brij is a win-win-win, and that’s the kind of opportunity that feeds everyone’s soul.”