Not wanting to feel helpless amid the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple UC Berkeley student-run consulting groups are advising local small businesses to help them survive.
Student groups such as Outhrive and The Berkeley Group have been offering pro bono consulting services to businesses that have been severely affected by the pandemic. By combining their interest and creativity, both groups are giving back to the local community in ways that they know best.
“As students of UC Berkeley and members of the community, we’re just so sad to see all of our favorite small businesses close down,” said Outhrive co-founder and rising UC Berkeley junior Amy Cha. “It really started with a simple idea of using our experiences to give back to the community.”
With a focus on marketing, finance and technology, Outhrive has worked with more than 24 Bay Area businesses. Some of its projects include designing websites for restaurants, suggesting in-person classes for a fitness center and opening a merchandise shop for an escape room business.
Mad Seoul, a Korean restaurant in Berkeley, is currently collaborating with Outhrive on a marketing push to increase the company’s exposure on social media.
“We have a weekly Zoom meeting; they give an update of what’s going on and ask me questions if needed,” said owner Aaron Kim. “Extremely professional, everything’s been really smooth. Our conversations have been great.”
Another project with Hello Vintage, a vintage clothing business, has focused on increasing “brand cohesion,” according to founder Carolyn Liu. With Outhrive’s marketing advice, Hello Vintage has already seen positive results with increasing followers on Instagram.
In addition to providing consultation services, Outhrive has fostered a “global network” of passionate students from around the world, Cha said. Co-founder and rising UC Berkeley junior Victoria Lin added that these students come from a variety of backgrounds and are looking to engage in professional experiences.
The Berkeley Group is providing similar services by offering a one-time virtual consultation to local businesses in the Bay Area, according to Saahil Shangle, vice president of development and a rising campus junior. The group has received more than a dozen sign-ups, and Shangle added that there seems to be a lot of interest.
“We’re all passionate about working in the social sector, creating an impact in our community with what we learned in the classroom,” Shangle said. “The response has been tremendous — we’ve been trying to manage demands and recruit as many volunteers from our student group as we can.”
The Telegraph Business Improvement District, or TBID, has received a consulting offer from The Berkeley Group and is looking toward connecting the two organizations, according to TBID Executive Director Alex Knox.
Knox added that strategizing for small businesses during this “fascinating” time for business retention and recovery can be a learning opportunity for students who want to become more successful in the field.
“It’s just really awesome that this help is being extended to Berkeley businesses by students,” Knox said.