Through the Institute for Business and Information Technology, students create free digital storefronts for small businesses and organizations affected by COVID-19
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 17, 2020 — According to NBC News, small businesses who pivoted to e-commerce saw record sales during Black Friday weekend. Count Philadelphia’s Urban Princess Boutique among those businesses.
A big reason for their success is Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT).
Since March, through IBIT, Temple students have been providing free digital services to small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. Some of the key digital services offered include website design, creating a digital storefront, setting up an e-commerce store and more. So far, these services have been provided to 47 area small businesses and nonprofits and are in the development stage for almost 10 more organizations.
“With the skills we honed from working with the Temple team, we were able to get our site up and running in time for the holiday shopping rush,” says Cindy Ray, co-owner of Urban Princess Boutique, a specialty gift and fashion store located on South Street. “We are actually thriving right now, due in part to the process we underwent working with Temple, who helped us focus and define our goals. We were really working in the dark and wallowing around with no set direction prior to their assistance.”
One of the students who helped work with the boutique on the project was Kunal Duggal, a senior management information systems student and an alumnus of Philadelphia’s New Foundations Charter School.
“For me personally, I saw this as an opportunity to get better at what I learned in class and help people out at the same time, which was really exciting,” Duggal says. “Being from Philadelphia made this mean even more to me. I was able to help people from where I’m from, and the beauty of this is that we helped them turn this crisis into an opportunity.”
Prior to the pandemic, Urban Princess Boutique essentially had no digital presence whereas it’s now at the center of their operations. In addition to their e-commerce store, the business now hosts weekly Facebook Live videos every Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m.
Another company to benefit from the free services was Merzbacher’s, an old-school bakery located in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. With the addition of an online store, Merzbacher’s is now able to reach customers directly.
“The e-store has allowed us to add a new source of revenue,” says Peter Merzbacher, owner of the bakery. “Historically, Merzbacher’s revenue has come entirely from business-to-business channels. Because of the website that Temple students built for us, we are selling bread directly to the consumer.”
The 50-plus businesses and nonprofit organizations to take advantage of IBIT’s free digital businesses cover a wide spectrum. Bridal, dog walking, trucking, yoga, behavioral therapy, film, chorus, youth development are just some examples of the types of companies and organizations to receive the free services.
Students across many of Temple’s 17 schools and majors—everything from graphic design to marketing—assisted with providing the free digital services.
“It has been an amazing experience to help these organizations,” says Rich Flanagan, a retired Fox School of Business faculty member and IBIT’s small business and nonprofit program manager. “Seeing the expertise and dedication of the students in making a difference is inspiring in these difficult times.”
Thanks to the support of its corporate members, including Alexion, AmerisourceBergen, Arcweb, Capgemini Invent, DecisiveEdge, Emtec, NBCUniversal, Pfizer and Scholastic, and Synacor, IBIT is continuing to offer these services free of charge to businesses and nonprofits in the Southeastern Pa. region.
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