Updated: Apr 6
Keeping a small business afloat in difficult economic times is challenging, and with the latest COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, we have seen how vital it is for local small business owners to receive support.
That's why Rise.ai developed Shunati - My Neighborhood in Hebrew - to support small businesses through a sustainable local economic model, connecting municipalities, corporate businesses, and organizations, to small businesses.
We talked about this initiative with Adam Folkman Lubrani, Shunati's Project Manager.
How did the "Shunati" initiative start?
"Shunati was developed under Rise.ai, a startup company from Tel Aviv.
Rise ai is a Gift Card and Store Credit solution for online brands around the world.
It is designed to actively manage all store’s re-engagement activity - gift cards, rewards, loyalty programs & refunds.
A New Zealand social Initiative contacted Rise.ai's team looking for a gift card solution for a community venture aimed to support small businesses, called SOS New Zealand. We were happy to support them.
Yair Miron, the CEO of Rise.ai, decided to launch a similar project here in Israel. Thanks to the success of Rise.ai, we had the privilege to invest in something entirely voluntarily, a true pro bono, made to support the businesses around the country."
What exactly is "Shunati"?
"Shunati is A non-profit social initiative established with the aim of supporting small businesses by connecting companies, organizations, and municipalities to local small businesses in their respective area. As a result, the small businesses are benefiting from an additional revenue stream, free marketing - the website has thousands of hits a month, and a free digitization process - many businesses don't even have a Facebook page.
Shunati's platform enables organizations of any kind to purchase gift cards that are redeemable at their favorite small businesses.
Our company manages everything, and we transfer 100% of the profit to the businesses after the customer has made a purchase. All of the services Shunati is providing are free of charge.”
What is your role in the project, and what interests you about this role?
"The project manager role has given me the opportunity to lead and significantly impact both the businesses I know and love and broadly help local authorities and small businesses in their geographic area. The project is a huge success even though it's running entirely pro-bono and voluntarily."
How many businesses have you helped so far?
"Today, there are over 200 businesses on the "Shunati" website.
The project came to life as we approached lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The idea was to enable small businesses to make money despite the quarantine.
For example, even though your favorite coffee house is closed, you can still buy a gift card, providing them with money quickly, and allowing you to redeem the gift card later when it reopens.
Eventually, we have discovered that there is a real need here. The project today serves as a platform that enables a unique sustainable local economy model that connects municipalities, organizations, and large companies with the small businesses around them.
Companies that do this for profit charge from small businesses a high commission rate, while with Shunati the small businesses get 100% of the profit."
Why is it important to support the local businesses?
"Well, small businesses suffered a severe economic blow in light of the pandemic. Shunati mainly helps with their cash flow as well as free marketing and free digitization process. We also help raise consumer awareness towards small businesses which are a tremendous economic engine for the country. We all love and know the businesses that are around the home or office. Given the familiarity with the small businesses each in his area, the giving becomes more meaningful."
Why do you think it is important to volunteer as a company?
"To be honest, I have actual data. Doing good as far as I have read, reduces a company’s team turnover rate by up to 50%, increases its productivity by up to 13%, and boosts employee engagement and satisfaction by up to 7.5%. Rise.ai is working on this project outside of work hours, willingly and lovingly, and we happily give service to business owners and local authorities. If it didn't have that added value and an element of giving, I don't think it would have been done with such joy. And it is also evident in the associations that work with us and the companies that have purchased gift cards for their employees that people are willing to take a significant step to do good."
How can I support my local community?
"I recommend volunteering to everyone.
I have a giving orientation, and I feel it's benefiting me personally as well as professionally.
On the Shunati level, you can tell someone you love, such as a relative who has a small business, to ‘Google’ Shunati and fill out a sign-up form. Our website includes all of the essential information. We also offer onboarding assistance to businesses if needed.
Anyone who wants to assist us and has an idea is welcome to contact us. This project relies on people's good intentions, we'll be happy to get help from anyone willing to contribute.
Important to note, we are calling companies to purchase gift cards for their employees to redeem at their favorite businesses in their local area."
Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs who want to impact on a social level?
"You need to maintain a very high energy level, and really understand your vision. Impact should be a top value in your action. We are driven by the fact that we are supporting small businesses all over Israel that are in difficulty right now and need help. This energy is vital for doing this kind of work."
Has working on Shunati changed you?
"Yes. Making such a significant impact on a personal level is good for me. Doing something broad as Shunati that addresses such a fundamental crisis is super valuable for me... I love doing what I do. I love the fact that I help small businesses increase revenue and go through such a modernization process."
Tell about a special event that happened while working on Shunati
"I got a call from a business owner that I personally know, and he excitedly told me about the thousands he made thanks to Shunati and that for the first time he has important info on his clients via Shunati’s Gift card management system.
Calls like that make my week. There were plenty of cases like this, but this specific phone call made me and the staff very happy and satisfied."