COVID-19: New business ideas emerge as people work from home - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post

COVID-19: New business ideas emerge as people work from home - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post

COVID-19: New business ideas emerge as people work from home - The Jakarta Post - Jakarta Post

Posted: 17 Apr 2020 06:39 PM PDT

You have completed the tasks your boss gave you, watered the plants and binge-watched your favorite shows online. Yet the day is still long as you spend time confined to your home amid the study- and work-from-home policies imposed by the authorities to stem the spread of COVID-19.

But for some, a surfeit of leisure time has sparked ideas about new productive hobbies that can support them financially.

Ester Christine Natalia, a 26-year-old office worker from Tangerang, Banten, has chosen to spend more time in her kitchen after being asked to work from home by her employers around a month ago.

"I love to try new recipes and my husband is also into cooking, since he watched a Korean drama recently," Ester told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Ester said she and her husband were surprised to find a new recipe they had made tasted delicious, so they decided to try selling the dish online several days ago.

"My husband tried a new recipe called tahu walik [fried tofu], and it was surprisingly really good. So, we decided to sell it through Instagram starting on Wednesday. I didn't expect anybody to buy it, at first. But as it turned out, a lot of people were interested in trying it out," she said.

Ester said she was quite happy with her new business although she admitted that it was quite challenging since she and her husband had to juggle between work and cooking.

"My husband and I have wanted to start a business for a long time, especially at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, since there's a high risk that both of us could lose our jobs. We were thinking hard about how to get extra income," she said.

The profit for the two days' sales was Rp 50,000 (US$ 3.21).

Physical-distancing policies have been imposed in Greater Jakarta since last month in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, forcing many residents to stay at home as their companies comply with the regulation.

Meanwhile, for 29-year-old journalist Muhammad Andika Putra, working from home is a great opportunity to restart the family's culinary business.

"My brother loves to cook. For the past three years he has occasionally sold food via social media, but not like 'seriously'. However, since we started to work from home around five weeks ago, we thought it was a great idea to start selling food again," he told the Post.

Dika explained that he and his brother convinced their mother to sell her doughnuts via the popular photo-sharing app Instagram. The brothers were certain that their mother's doughnuts, which have been a family breakfast staple for years would be a hit among people who were stuck at home and craving a nice snack.

Read also: Small businesses cry for lifeline as government aid underway

He said his family had been surprised by the success of their new business.

The family now count making and packing doughnuts as one of their daily activities, thanks to the growing number of orders.

"We've seen our sales steadily rise due to the social-distancing policy, since a lot of people want to snack at home but they can't go anywhere. In the first week we sold around 20 doughnuts but now we manage to sell 90," Dika said adding that a pack of five unfried doughnuts cost Rp 25,000 and a pack of 10 sold for Rp 50,000.

If you want to help in the fight against COVID-19, we have compiled an up-to-date list of community initiatives designed to aid medical workers and low-income people in this article. Link: [UPDATED] Anti-COVID-19 initiatives: Helping Indonesia fight the outbreak

Guest opinion: Six ideas for helping local businesses during COVID-19 crisis - Mountain View Voice

Posted: 19 Apr 2020 07:40 AM PDT

Small businesses add pizzazz and vibrancy to our lives. Keeping restaurants, nail salons, day care centers and other small local businesses alive through these difficult times does much more than help the business owner. These owners don't only support themselves, but they also are responsible for the livelihoods of all of their staff.

For most of my adult life, I was part of The Milk Pail Market in Mountain View, a very popular, community-centric business. I have a very real passion for the importance of small, vibrant mom-and-pop businesses in our communities, and I have felt that the employee-employer relationship is like a dance — one cannot exist without the other, and neither will exist without the music from the public.

Mountain View City Councilwoman Alison Hicks recently told me that if these small businesses close, then corporate offices and chain restaurants will likely take their places. The little guy simply won't be able to make it anymore.

Our local businesses — mom-and-pop businesses, family businesses, vibrant and OPEN businesses — are vital to our community. I think we want to do everything possible to ensure that these businesses we value reopen when life settles down.

Here are six ideas for tangible things that you can do right now to help our small businesses and their employees:

1. During this crisis, if you are a landlord, consider lowering the rent to any business that has been highly affected by the shelter-in-place order. It wasn't the tenant's fault that this is happening, and it is likely that they don't have deep pockets to weather this storm. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat and share my concerns with John McNellis, a Palo Alto landlord and friend who recently wrote a column about this issue, in which he stated, "We are forgiving all rent for the month of April for our mom-and-pop tenants that have been forced to close." I continue to promote John's essay with the hope that if local landlords see it they will follow suit.

2. Some cities are creating "small business relief funds," including Mountain View, San Francisco, Portland and the counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo. You can contribute to such a fund to help stabilize local small businesses. These funds often issue microloans that will be paid back in time.

3. Give someone a hand. If you have the capacity, consider offering an interest-free loan to those in your own network having a difficult time. Even $100 can change somebody's life right now. Alternatively, pay it forward! Give a no-strings-attached sum of money to someone in need.

4. Eat out! Well, take out! Most restaurants have razor-thin profit margins on a good day; right now, many restaurants are in dire straits. If you have the ability, order a to-go dinner tonight from your local restaurant. If you want to eat there when the shelter-in-place order is behind us, it's important to support them now.

5. If you are fortunate enough to not really "need" the coronavirus stimulus check that the federal government is distributing to many taxpayers, this might be a way for you to start your own "relief fund" for others that are more in need.

6. Lastly, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Los Altos Community Foundation are wonderful organizations that oversee "donor advised funds" and private gifts that are used for philanthropic contributions to worthy nonprofit groups, both local and global. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation oversees $13.5 billion in donor-advised funds. These monies often come from wealthy local individuals, families and corporations. It would be quite an act of generosity if people reading this were to donate some small amount to one of these foundations for the benefit of helping our local small businesses that have been hurt by this horrific COVID-19 attack on our communities.

In my 45 years of owning a business, I have been rewarded with many good friends, some serious luck, a few rough times and a bit of good fortune. At this stage of my life, I want to give back to the vibrant community that gave my little store life.

I invite those of you who have had a similar life's path to share your experience, your wisdom and maybe some of your financial success with local small businesses that now need your support.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Steve Rasmussen owned the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View for 45 years. He welcomes discussions of additional ways to help small businesses and can be emailed at

Will Coronavirus Destroy America's Beloved Small Businesses? - The New York Times

Posted: 19 Apr 2020 04:00 PM PDT

By pandemic standards, Du Jour Bakery is a success story. On a block of darkened establishments in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, its lights alone are on, powered by the fealty of its neighborhood customers and the grit of its owner, Vera Tong. Her resolve could throw off sparks.

So what, practically speaking, does it mean to be a small business trying to survive in a plague? In Vera's case, it means suddenly running something that's closer to an ambitious bake sale than overstuffed bakery. The glass case at Du Jour was once a pirate's chest of outrageous delectables, including dozens of muffins the size of baseballs, my personal vice. Now it has 15. On Wednesday, Vera threw all of them away. No one wanted muffins that day.

It means Vera has three employees, where she once had 10. It means she does all the baking herself, where she once had another baker, now living back home with his parents. It means she's taking in 40 percent of what she once did, though she'll still turn a modest profit this month if her landlords accept $5,000 in rent, rather than the customary $8,800. (So far, no. They're tacking the balance onto next month's bill.)

Many of us are now privately cataloging our attachments to the local businesses we can't bear to see collapse. Du Jour, just steps from my home, is at the top of my list. To chat with Vera is to get a painful grasp of what small-business owners face — will they even last until the "new normal"? If they do, will the new normal be survivable? — and what communities will lose if they don't endure.

Among the intangible losses: A vast network of cherished spaces that sociologists refer to as "third places" — those beloved destinations between home and work where ideas are exchanged, relationships are forged, and communities are strengthened. Think cafes. Bars. Bookstores.

Let's start with the basics. President Trump's relief effort to aid small businesses has not been "a tremendous success" and "executed flawlessly," as he still maintained on Friday. American banks had to turn away hundreds of thousands of small businesses for Paycheck Protection Program loans these last two weeks, suggesting that the additional $300 billion in the proposed next round of legislation most likely still won't be enough.

Vera didn't get a nickel. She tried to access the money for four straight days through JPMorgan Chase. She got nothing but a plague of error messages. "The site was crashing," she explained. Adding insult to injury: Large restaurant chains, including Ruth's Chris steak houses and Potbelly sandwich shops and Shake Shack, dipped their snouts in the trough and got $40 million. The program was meant for small businesses. A last-minute loophole was scribbled into the bill on their behalf.

If mom-and-pop establishments like Vera's close, the psychic and economic devastation can't be underestimated. Small businesses employ — and recirculate money — locally. In recent years, an increasing number of them have been owned by women and minorities. They define and protect neighborhoods. They're anchors and harbors all at once.

Our neighborhoods would otherwise be moonscapes of Burger Kings and Dunkin' Donuts.

The greatest perversity of all? It's the most community-minded souls who create the most lovable third places. Vera knows your regular order and discreetly slips you leftovers at the end of the week. Even now, she's making sure she's still baking vegan and gluten-free options for those who want them. When customers linger briefly and make conversation, she reassures them that her cafe is OK, in the same poignant and peculiar way that the bereaved often console those who are supposed to be consoling them.

"If someone wants to talk to and ask how you are," she told me, "you don't want to shut your customers down."

And she feels tremendous obligation to those who work for her. While the message we're getting from President Trump is that it's every state for itself — the kind of message that gives unconscious license to be personally selfish (would Americans hoard if we had a president who urged unity?) — she feels the moral weight of mutual commitments.

"I feel responsible for my guys," she said. "They're my family. I can offer them steady days."

Two of her three employees are now the sole breadwinners in their families. One, Jose, told me he and his parents now eat two meals per day. "We eat a lot of rice and beans," he said. "When we get sick of it, we scramble an egg." And he considers himself lucky. His family is more secure than others.

Provided, that is, that Du Jour stays in business. It's the only open business on its block. Keeping it that way requires the kind of endurance that makes emotional and physical stamina almost indistinguishable. Vera gets up at dawn, bakes her pastries, closes, cleans up and shops at the local grocery store for the next day's lunch-special ingredients, because she no longer has enough customers to order those items in bulk. Then she goes home to her rented apartment above the shuttered bar next door and spends two hours filling out forms for loans.

"You have to keep a bit of a robot brain," she told me. "Otherwise you're just going to fall apart."

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