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Jonathan Brewster, one of the student participants in the Zuckerberg Institute, discusses his efforts to help small businesses recover from the pandemic
Earlier this year the town of Greenburgh partnered with the Zuckerberg Institute -offering exceptional students the opportunity to help local small businesses not only survive but to excel. Students worked with the Zuckerberg Institute and came up with creative ideas. One student, Jonathan Brewster, shared his experiences and successes with me recently. We're looking forward to offering students the opportunity to partner with small businesses that serve the Greenburgh community next spring and summer. Interested in participating? PLease e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Jonathan Brewster's story below: Thanks, Jonathan and our amazing students for making a difference. PAUL FEINER, Greenburgh Town Supervisor
Article: Spring 2020 was one of the most challenging periods I can recall in the seventeen years I have been alive because of the devastation caused by the pandemic through loss of human lives, loss of businesses that never recovered from the shutdown, and the upending of our way of living. More than a year later, we continue to struggle with the effects of the pandemic. While vaccinations have helped significantly slow down the rate of deaths, businesses continue to struggle with recovery, especially small businesses. During the shutdown, small businesses greatly suffered because of the restriction and increased costs, which prevented them from performing to the level they did pre-pandemic. I have witnessed the devastation to small businesses in the Town of Greenburgh, where I live. Many small businesses have closed permanently; you can see it with numerous vacancies in the large malls like The Westchester, The Galleria, and strip malls where businesses were once thriving. The companies that have survived the shutdown continue to struggle to return to their pre-pandemic level of operations.
During my Junior year at the Hackley School, I came across the Zuckerberg Institutes Post Pandemic Task Force program for the Town of Greenburgh, an innovative program created through a partnership with our Town Supervisor, Paul Feiner, and his team, and Randi Zuckerberg and her team of co-founders and business leaders at the Zuckerberg Institute. Through the Zuckerberg Institute, I would meet with experts in the business field and gain experience to develop strategies that would help struggling businesses in my community recover from the pandemic. I was excited and very interested in this excellent program because it would help me gain real-world business experience, help my community, and positively impact Greenburgh. As an African American youth, I was keenly aware of how Covid-19 has disproportionately impacted my community. I wanted to help small businesses recover from the pandemic, especially those owned and operated by African Americans. One such business is Golden Krust. Their customers are predominantly African American and primarily of Caribbean descent. As an African American of Caribbean descent, I was personally aware of Golden Krust as a frequent and satisfied customer. Once I was accepted to the Zuckerberg Institute, I met with the owner of Golden Krust, Ms. Charmaine Golding. She explained how her business had experienced a significant drop in sales, mainly catering orders, increased costs, and restrictions. This was devastating for me to hear because I've gone to Golden Krust almost every weekend, and it's not too far from where I live. I could not imagine them closing, so I began researching ways to help small businesses, especially restaurants, with financial problems stemming from COVID-19. While working with the Zuckerberg Institute, I was introduced to another business in Greenburgh called Top Asia Mart. When working with Top Asia Mart, my colleagues and I helped the business owners market their products, advertise to the local community, and clean up the store's exterior and interior. While working with Top Asia Mart, we were able to enlist other members of our community to come and help clean the store up and capture the transformation on social media. After that project ended, I refocused my efforts on Golden Krust specifically how to increase takeout and catering orders. I learned that restaurants that did not rely on dine-in sales and restaurants with a higher percentage of takeout orders had higher survival rates post-pandemic. Fortunately, Golden Krust fits in this category.I introduced Golden Krust to my colleagues at Zuckerberg Institute who then worked on enhancing its digital marketing strategy including, social media campaigns and other ideas to increase awareness of Golden Krust, while I met with Ms Golding and discussed establishing their online ordering capabilities. Through research as well as my family’s own personal experience, most of our shopping was now being done online, so I knew having online ordering capabilities would be very important to its overall recovery. In addition to ordering electronics and clothing, we were also ordering food online due to physical distance and other COVID-19 mandates. This was a big change in our habits, we, along with other consumers, have become more digital during the pandemic. In my discussions with Ms Golden, as a franchise owner, we recognized improving their online ordering capabilities would require a more long-term approach and coordination with the corporate office. I look forward to continuing to work with Ms. Golding in executing their online strategies. Joining the Zuckerberg Institute, I got the opportunity to help small businesses financially recover from the pandemic. I worked with the business owners as colleagues. We strategized together on ideas to stabilize their business and recover from the losses they suffered during the pandemic. My long-term goal when I attend college next year is to study Business Management, and eventually work as a Business Consultant. This has been a rewarding endeavor that has given me invaluable experience, while also helping small businesses in my community improve their operations and sales. It's also allowed me to forge relationships with business and community leaders. Other high school students can benefit from a program like this while also helping local businesses in their communities. I would highly recommend that high schools consider including a business consulting program as part of their curriculum to provide students interested in business and entrepreneurship with real-world experiences, while helping local businesses. By pursuing a profession in business, I wish to continue to assist my community, where I can offer hands-on help to struggling businesses.