Many people can confidently say they care about small businesses and philanthropic causes, but baking those efforts into a business plan and executing on them every day is a different story. In our final episode during Women’s History Month, Angela Shen, owner and founder of Savor Seattle, shares more about the deep care she has for her local community, the social causes she advocates for, and how she actively supports women-owned businesses.
Prior to the pandemic, Savor Seattle operated as an in-person food touring company for locals and tourists, visiting some of the city’s most popular establishments. Once COVID hit, it all halted, and Angela knew the company would need to be reinvented entirely. “Overnight, our entire tourism infrastructure and the food and restaurant business collapsed. We quickly scrambled to come up with a way to save jobs as well as support our food community that we’ve become ambassadors of for the past 14 years. So we figured, if we can’t bring people to these restaurants anymore, why don’t we try to bring the food directly to them? And that’s how the idea of our curated local food boxes came to be.”
The touring company began supporting the local community through an entirely different business model, and our Yelp reviewer, Vy M., a Vietnamese immigrant and healthcare worker, was one of the first to try out this new business venture. She shared, “I had been wanting to find ways to support local businesses other than ordering takeout food every night. So I wanted to do my part, and also I missed going to Pike Place. So it was a great way to be able to support the local businesses and get the fresh produce and delicious products from Pike Place.”
With each box, Angela and her team collected items from the vendors that they had once visited on the in-person tours, from coffee and flowers to dried meats and fresh bread. Each box not only could feed a family of four but it also supported the local businesses at a time when they needed it most. But Angela didn’t stop there. She is passionate about a number of philanthropic causes, and it showed in her work. After George Floyd’s death, Angela compiled a box that featured 11 Black-owned businesses. Proceeds went to raise money for the Black Lives Matter fund, which enabled her to donate more than $18,000. Yet again, she didn’t stop there. Every box they sold in 2020 had a philanthropic component, and in just nine months, Angela was able to donate more than $100,000 to local nonprofits.
Check out a few additional lessons we cover in this episode:
- Conscious consumerism is here to stay. Consumers are more interested than ever in spending their money with businesses whose values they support and that align with their own. By supporting causes that she is passionate about, Angela gives back, while also engaging consumers who care where their dollars go.
- Customer service reigns supreme. As Angela describes, “It’s the most important part of the buying experience and building trust.” She recognizes that people want a personal touch. It’s what they remember, what keeps them coming back, and is the reason why they share with their friends and family.
- Know your limits. Angela’s curated box business became so popular that it took on a life of its own. While it was essential for them when the pandemic first hit, it eventually became so big that she knew it’d reach its full potential elsewhere. It needed to be run by someone with the proper operational capabilities and infrastructure. While it may be tempting to do it all, it’s often best to have a concentrated focus on fewer things.
Angela recognizes that her own inspiration can inspire the needed change around her. “I take it as a personal challenge being not only a female, but a minority, female-owned business, to do everything that I can to challenge the status quo, to do things in a way that aren’t just about meeting our needs.”
Interviews by Emily Washcovick
These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Angela and Vy, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.
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