Outta Hand Pizza
Nomination from Amanda K
I cannot thank Outta Hand Pizza enough for all they did during the pandemic. They found safe and fun ways for my family to frequent our favorite pizza place. The curbside pickup they worked with the town was incredibly helpful for a mom on the go! All I can say is wow the pizza kits were creative! I don’t have to tell you with kids running around keeping them entertained while lock down was so hard! Making our own pizza brought us together as a family.
I also have to say how generous they have been to the community. They’ve made multiple food donations to frontline workers and local families in need. I think I speak for everyone else when I say thank you Outta Hand Pizza for all that you do!
Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story
Just like other small businesses, Outta Hand Pizza was faced with extraordinary challenges during Covid-19 pandemic. Many businesses chose to close down and wait out the storm. Some relied on the funds appropriated by the government. But not Outta Hand Pizza. We evolved into a take out and delivery only business. We added Make Your Own Pizza kits to the menu; families on lockdown could make their own pizza. Fun, deliciousness, and entertainment. We invested efforts and finances dedicated to turn the new business model into an efficient one. We hired more delivery personnel, expanded the kitchen and the pizza making space, redesigned the website and online ordering system. In couple of weeks we found ourselves to be the only full time operating business. The business increased tremendously. To assure the customers and the community we were the first to introduce Contact-Free-Delivery. To help curb the spread of Covid-19 we hired local companies to sanitize daily and complied with State and local requirements to prevent Covid-19. Further, we championed with the Town of Westfield to provide and assign the parking spaces in front of small businesses for curbside pick up only.
Meanwhile, the business flourished. On March 13th, 2020 we made our first delivery of 12 pizza pies free to healthcare workers at Overlook Hospital in Summit. A member of the hospital staff who had the pizza posted the gesture on Facebook. The very next day we had an influx of calls and offers to Pay-it-forward meals for Healthcare workers. Like wildfire word spread and we found ourselves in the middle of it. We had to re-shuffle, adapt and hire even more help. In the next four months we had delivered over 5000 pies paid for by the community. The donations came as far as Trenton and NYC. We had several TV appearances.
But, we did not forget those that hurt the most. Families in need, seniors and veterans. We committed to provide free meals for any family in need at least once a week; we had up to 17 families we provided for. We made weekly deliveries to up to 92 meals to veteran residents temporarily placed in Lyons VA. We made sure the local First Responders received meals at least once a week. We delivered to 16 medical and healthcare centers in 10 different towns. Newark, New Brunswick, Livingston, Elizabeth, , Edison, Rahway, Summit, Westfield, Mountainside, and Brooklyn NY.
At first, we saw the fear within healthcare workers that turned into confusion and lastly into We-Got-This. Undeterred, they fought our fight, suffered through the battles but turned the tide and won the war. We dedicated a short video to them and thanked the community for the support.
When restrictions loosened, we found ourselves fully staffed and ahead of others. Community had supported us and we gave back.
Gale Force Media
Nomination from Jon-Henry Barr
New publisher Lauren Barr took over the helm at the Westfield Leader and Scotch Plains/Fanwood Times just one week before the pandemic lockdown resulted in a collapse of critical advertising revenue. Layoffs were kept to a minimum while remaining employees were given reduced work hours and pay, while maintaining full benefits. Loans and grants were also sought and obtained.
Additionally, a new office location was secured with lower rent but greater public visibility and free parking, resulting in further cost savings. The newspapers’ social media following was increased by 60%, a brand new website was created, and UPC codes were placed on the front page to enable easier and more efficient newsstand sales. The subscription rate was also lowered, enabling a higher subscriber retention rate and growth in new subscribers.
Remarkably, on top of all of this, the newspapers co-sponsored and organized food drives for Union County residents most harmed by the economic disaster. The newspaper staff worked hard to communicate both facts and resources available during the pandemic, with an emphasis on highlighting volunteer efforts to help both residents in need and front line workers. Finally, the papers also ran a list of business and restaurants offering curbside pickup and delivery during the darkest days of the shutdown, at no charge to the businesses mentioned.
Union County Small Business Community Champion’s Story
I purchased the newspapers on March 6, 2020, and just a week later, schools were closed and the state entered into the shutdown. We watched 75% of our revenue vanish overnight as a good portion of our advertisers were themselves shut down. As the press was deemed an essential business, we were permitted to remain open, and my incredible staff never missed a beat.
We compiled lists of businesses open for takeout and delivery, which we ran at no charge. We offered the newspaper free online for months so that more people could be informed.
I was approached by a member of the community, and we worked with business owners and civic leaders to co-sponsor several food drives benefiting Rahway Food for Friends. We promoted and set up collection locations in five towns.
While continuing to report on the actions of local governing bodies, we also focused on the work of our local non-profits and pop-up mask making volunteer groups who were aiding the community and essential workers. Whether it was raising funds, garnering supplies or needing assistance, we assisted in making those connections. Several of our older subscribers who do not have internet access told us how much they appreciated our dedication to keeping them informed.
In a frightening time when misinformation was running rampant, we provided consistent verified facts to the public every week. Subscriptions to the newspaper grew during the pandemic at rates we have not seen in many years.
We were able to get first and second round PPP loans to keep us afloat. Additionally, we got a grant from Union County for three months of rent. When our lease was up, we moved to a new location to lower our costs.
Amid all of this, we built a brand new website, lowered our rates and created new advertising categories.
I could not be more proud of, or grateful to, my team.