According to Anna Purcell, owner of Manayunk-based boutique Threads on Main, the small businesses that occupy the riverside neighborhood aren’t competitors—they’re members of a close-knit community.
That’s why, as the possibility of a shutdown loomed over the city this past weekend, she didn’t just worry about her bottom line. She worried about The Little Apple, Bourbon Blue, LILA, and the other small businesses neighboring her own.
So with the help of her husband Justin Kohler, she sat down to calculate the hit that Threads on Main would take if it shuttered operations for a month. The pair realized that, if just half of Threads on Main’s social media followers and email subscribers purchased $10 gift cards online, the profits would cover any losses the shop sustains. And if people across Philadelphia made similar purchases at other businesses, it could soften the inevitable blow to the local economy.
So last Sunday—ahead of the city’s official order to close non-essential businesses to limit the spread of coronavirus—Purcell launched #ShareYour50. The social media campaign urges people in Philadelphia and beyond to spend $10 at five of their favorite local businesses, either in the form of online purchases or e-gift cards to be used at a later date.
“We did this to show people that $10 has such an impact on small businesses,” Purcell says. “Hopefully this makes everybody feel like they have some power and can do good during this time of uncertainty.”
To publicize the campaign, Purcell and her husband created a series of infographics explaining the vital role that small businesses play in the nation’s economy, and the ripple effect that could be triggered if they closed for good.
“Small businesses are pretty much the start and the end of the entire supply chain,” Kohler, who works in private wealth management for The Sharp Financial Group, says. “For large corporations, small businesses are the lifeblood of their incoming orders. If you take a look at Sysco, one the largest food suppliers, without small restaurant chains, it wouldn’t be able to operate efficiently or as successfully.”
Small businesses (defined as those with fewer than 500 employees) also employ the most people in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration—56.8 million employees total, to be exact. They also account for 99.7 percent of all business in the country.
Purcell shared the infographics on Threads on Main’s Instagram page and blog, along with a call for customers to post which five businesses they chose to support, and tag five friends in order to challenge them to do the same.
View this post on Instagram
Purcell says the campaign has gained traction across the city, and even received a shoutout from Living Swell, a boutique in Marblehead, Massachusetts. She and Koehler hope it will continue to spread nationally, and calculate that if every working American participated in #ShareYour50, it could pump $6.5 billion into the economy.
“I’m pretty much in awe,” says McCauley. “She’s just a little retail store, and here she is experiencing probably the biggest turmoil in her entire career, and she’s coming out with a concept that won’t just help herself but help others.”
Thanks to online sales and e-gift cards, Threads on Main has yet to experience a drop in revenue since closing to the public. In fact, Purcell says Threads on Main has seen a boost to its style box service, which sends personally curated outfits to customers’ doorsteps and charges them for the items they keep.
And other businesses are sharing in the success. Brandy Deieso, owner of nearby gift shop The Little Apple, says that after she posted about #ShareYour50, she received 15 online orders in one day—which is way more than usual.
“A lot of people have been asking how they can best support us,” Deieso says. “And I think this gave them an easy and specific way to do that.”
Gwen McCauley, executive director of the Manayunk Development Corporation (MDC), says that since the MDC shared the #ShareYour50 challenge on its social media pages, the posts have received an overwhelming amount of support.
And while McCauley can’t say for sure whether citywide participation in #ShareYour50 could save Philadelphia’s small businesses, she thinks all contributions are necessary, no matter how small.
“Right now, I have to think everything is going to help,” she says. “We have to be positive and I think we have to push it. And I’m hoping with [#ShareYour50] and other resources, [businesses] will look back at this and be stronger because they got through it.”
MDC is directing Manayunk businesses owners to those other resources, which include grants, loans and emergency assistance programs. They are compiled on MDC’s website, which McCauley says is constantly being updated.
Since launching #ShareYour50, Purcell has personally helped several businesses shift their operations online and establish online gift card options. And while the situation remains fraught, McCauley has found a silver lining in the fact that the shutdown has prompted many brick-and-mortar businesses to finally establish an online presence.
“They’re getting forced into it when they hadn’t done it before, and hopefully it will be part of their platform later,” McCauley says. “And that’ll be great.”
And the brightest silver lining of all, according to McCauley, is the display of unity she’s seen thanks to Purcell’s efforts. It’s a trend she thinks will continue long after this crisis blows over.
“I’m pretty much in awe,” she says of Purcell. “She’s just a little retail store, and here she is experiencing probably the biggest turmoil in her entire career, and she’s coming out with a concept that won’t just help herself but help others. I’m proud to have someone like that in our district.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Purcell’s husband’s name. It is Justin. It also misstated Gwen McCauley’s title. She is Executive Director.Photo courtesy Threads / Facebook