WIR’ED pairs students and shopkeepers to improve STEM education and online market to combat COVID-19 pandemic impact on businesses
CLEVELAND –Cleveland Metropolitan School District and East Cleveland Schools students and Old Brooklyn and East Cleveland business owners met online to begin work on the second pilot of WIR’ED, a program that pairs students and marketing professionals with business owners to improve online operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conceived in March 2020 by NeoSTEM leaders and the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, WIR’ED seeks to respond to the needs of brick-and-mortar businesses with little or no online presence struggling to operate in the increasingly socially distanced and online world triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and Case Western Reserve University partnered to provide funding for the project.
Businesses participating in the project include Bill Kap Piano, David’s Challenge Young Achievers Ohio, the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center, the Falafel Café, Gus’s Old Brooklyn Family Restaurant, the Historical Society of Old Brooklyn, the JDL Treat and Flower Shoppe, and the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope.
Mel McGee, founder of We Can Code It, introduced the students to the business owners they are paired with and led the group’s discussion of the business owners’ goals. “If you have a brick and mortar business, it’s very difficult during the COVID days,” McGee said. “We are creating a model where we match students and business owners, along together with marketing professionals, to really help the businesses not only survive, but hopefully thrive during this time.”
Throughout the meeting, shopkeepers echoed a theme that has become common nationwide – that the pandemic has forced them to rethink their business models.
Gus’s Old Brooklyn Family Restaurant has been in business for more than 30 years, said owner Nick Semertsidis, but was forced to shut down during the pandemic. “Right now, times are challenging,” Semertsidis said. “So anything with marketing that can help us would be greatly appreciated. Anything I could learn would be a positive thing.”
Constance Ewasen, president of the Historical Society of Old Brooklyn, said the organization’s museum has been open for more than 35 years but, because of the pandemic, has been forced to adopt an online model. “Because of COVID, we’ve had to change things around so people can do things more virtually,” Ewasen said. “A lot of museums are putting their collections online now, and it’s a big process, and we need help doing that.”
Going forward, McGee expects business owners, students, and marketing professionals to meet individually to discuss their goals in the project.
“Students will have a game plan after they talk to the business owners,” McGee said. “They’re going to hear you. What are your wants? What are your needs? And then they are going wo work with their marketing professionals in order to say, what do you think is the best way to reach these goals?”
Business owners, students, and marketing advisors will continue to meet throughout February and March to discuss their goals, and will gather online on a weekly basis to discuss their progress, with the next meeting scheduled for February 8.
For more information, contact Alyssa Briggs at firstname.lastname@example.org.