In the past ten years, the Midwest has become a hotbed of innovation, collaboration, and growth. ScriptDrop’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio, is no slouch: with an endless stream of new small businesses and more than one startup “unicorn” valued at $1 billion or over, we dream big and deliver on our goals.
But the current pandemic situation has brought out another side of Midwestern startups and small businesses: we pair our agility with empathy. A remarkable number of companies refused to ignore the crisis and quickly pivoted to better serve the community. We wish we could mention them all, but here are a few of our inspiring Columbus-based colleagues.
The tech teams
Loop may not seem like an obvious candidate to have a strong COVID-19 response. Their flagship product is a software platform that handles returns and exchanges for Shopify e-merchants.
But Loop knows that small businesses need all the support they can get right now. Their team rolled out a new, free version of their platform called Loop Lite. By making returns and exchanges easier, Loop Lite helps vulnerable business owners keep their customers happy.
Loop CEO Jonathan Poma wrote in a recent company blog, “[Loop Lite is] good for certain brands who really need the help right now; who are evaluating every expense, and need to cut costs; … who need to HAVE a returns platform, but can’t really consider an additional cost and a contract right now. Brands who, genuinely, need a partner.”
Another tech company offering something new to small businesses is SHARE Mobility, a microtransit company. They recognized that as Ohio – and many other states – moved into lockdown mode, the demand for delivery would skyrocket. But businesses without an existing courier partner or in-house driver might not know where to turn.
That’s where SHARE stepped in. They repurposed their software platform, shared their transportation network, and switched their drivers from people-movers to delivery people. SHARE is partnering with businesses in 75 cities across the country to transport groceries, prescriptions, prepared and hot meals, health supplies, work-related items, and even industrial/commercial supplies. Not only are they keeping their drivers employed, but they’re helping the community at the same time.
Several distilleries throughout the Columbus area have pivoted from making whiskey, gin, and vodka to making denatured ethyl alcohol for hand sanitizer. There’s incredible demand for these topical, alcohol-based sanitizers, but these businesses are generously giving it away for free to the people who need it most.
High Bank Distillery
Just down the road from ScriptDrop’s headquarters is High Bank Distillery, a small craft distillery. High Bank is not only delivering free bottles of sanitizer to first responders and medical staff, but they’re also trying to reserve a few cases for the Columbus community to buy during business hours (limit 1 bottle per person per day).
Another ScriptDrop neighbor, Watershed Distillery, has also hit pause on their gin and bourbon production. Instead, the Watershed team is working hard to produce enough hand sanitizer to meet demand. While available for sale to the public, their sanitizer is available to first responders and front-line healthcare workers for free. They can pick up either four 16-oz bottles or a one-gallon bucket at a time, or call ahead for a larger order. Essential businesses can order in bulk as well.
There simply isn’t enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for all the healthcare workers who need it. To mitigate that need, an ever-growing number of Columbus manufacturers have repurposed their facilities to produce masks, face shields, and more. While some are organizing under the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19, other businesses are working on their own.
Started by CEO Claire Coder when she was 18 years old, Aunt Flow manufactures 100% cotton menstrual products for businesses and schools. Their mission is to ensure that employees, students, and guests everywhere always have access to free menstrual products.
But that mission had to change when COVID-19 hit the United States. As stated on the company Twitter account, “We are a company committed to access to basic necessities. That’s why we went from tampons to masks.” Aunt Flow pivoted their manufacturing facilities to produce three-ply, FDA-approved masks and are currently making 100,000 masks a day.
IC3D specializes in 3D modeling, printing, and manufacturing – in other words, they are a perfect fit for PPE production. They began producing face shields for healthcare workers, then worked with doctors at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare system to make improvements to the preexisting shield design.
But IC3D has gone beyond their own production and has made resources available for anyone with a 3D printer. Not only are they offering their NIH-approved design for the face shield brackets, but they will also provide the non-printed shield materials (die-cut clear plastic sheets, foam padding, and elastic) free of charge, while supplies last.
If you don’t own a 3D printer, you can still contribute to their 3D-printing cause with a monetary donation.
Our final shout-out, Rogue Fitness, manufactures gym equipment. From barbells to pull-up rigs, medicine balls to speed ropes, it’s all built here in Columbus. That experience in manufacturing gave them the power to make a difference.
Rogue teamed up with Columbus Advanced Manufacturing Systems to 3D print face shield brackets, but they’ve since moved on to more projects. The Rogue sewing department has pivoted to face masks, which are being donated to local healthcare groups in the community. Rogue is also making serious efforts to support their employees with increased pay, free groceries, free lunch, and a longer lunch break to allow for hand-washing.
Caring for the community
We are inspired by our fellow Columbus startups and small businesses. It’s energizing to see people helping others and developing creative solutions to new problems. We can do more than just survive this crisis.
If you can, show your support for these generous startups and businesses, or seek out the helpers in your own hometown. If nothing else, give them a follow on social media. At a time when the world seems dark and dreary, these people can provide a bright ray of hope.