.New Campaign Drives Cash to Local Business with Gift Card Sales

At the beginning of April, Santa Cruz Works launched a new campaign to encourage locals to support local businesses, many of which have temporarily shuttered or are operating at reduced capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders.

The Ride Out the Wave campaign calls on county residents to buy gift cards for their favorite companies, and about 400 businesses have signed on to the effort. Santa Cruz Works Executive Director Doug Erickson says the campaign’s first round garnered $10,000 in matching funds, with support from the economic development departments at both the city and county of Santa Cruz. That means that anyone who bought a gift card to a local business through the early part of the campaign saw additional cash pour in to his or her chosen establishment via the Ride Out the Wave fund.

“It’s entirely volunteer-based. We don’t make a penny out of it. We do all the work, and we’re just supporting our local faves,” Erickson says.

The idea was born when Amazon employees Drew Meyer and Rex Harris, who both work in Santa Cruz, approached Erickson with the concept. To promote the effort, Santa Cruz Works invited local singer/songwriter Taylor Rae to do a livestreamed concert on April 3, which quickly blew up online. “Musicians keep our spirits high,” Erickson says. The matching funds quickly dried up, but devotees of local businesses kept giving anyway. The first round of the campaign pulled in more than $40,000.

Now, the Santa Cruz Works team is gearing up for round two. The Ride Out the Wave campaign has more than doubled its preliminary haul, securing $25,000 in matching funds—thanks to contributions from Looker, Amazon and Monterey Bay Economic Partnership.

This next round kicks off on Friday, April 24, at 7pm, when another local songwriter Keith Greeninger will be putting on his own livestreamed show on the online channels for Santa Cruz Works and Ride Out the Wave. In order to land matching funds, each shopper will have to make a minimum purchase of $50, while funds are available. Erickson expects the cash to pour in quickly once again and for matching funds to go quickly, like they did last time.

He hopes these strategies buy local companies some time, while everyone waits for businesses to reopen. “It’s a short-term Band-Aid. What we need is to restart our economic engines,” he says. “As soon as there’s enough testing and we can get back out, we’ll see what the new norm’s gonna be.”

For more information, visit rideoutthewave.org.


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