Two online initiatives to bring together Brixton’s physically separated sellers and buyers have launched this week.
The Brixton Business improvement District (BID) today (8 April) announced its Brixton Local directory. It has been working on it for a while but brought forward the launch because “in the current climate we feel that creating a space to highlight our local businesses is paramount”.
Another Brixton Local has been set up by long-time Brixton Hill resident Johanna Herman.
Her initiative to contribute to the community during the coronavirus lockdown started as a simple Google doc of local businesses she knew still operating online.
It circulated in a few WhatsApp groups, but quickly grew into BrixtonLocal.Life, a website and social media operation that is adding more businesses every day. It currently has 43.
The site had more than 2,000 users in its first five days just through Facebook and WhatsApp.
“I saw all of these local groups mobilising to help vulnerable people, and I wondered what else could be done,” says Johanna.
“I noticed that lots of small businesses, like Jones the Butcher, which had mainly supplied restaurants, but switched to doing meat box deliveries, were adapting quickly to still be able to operate safely, and to serve people.
“I wanted to make sure there was a way to connect them with more people.
“It would be sad to come out of this crisis to find that so many of our really valued local businesses and services didn’t make it because people thought Amazon or a big supermarket was their only option”
Johanna used her coding skills to create a one-stop resource for people and businesses in and around Brixton, “I could see that people were checking the Google document all the time, so it just made sense to make a website,” she says
Johanna left academia in the field of human rights to found Workerbird, a tech-for-good start-up and is driven to use technology to have a social impact.
An alumnus of UK non-profit coding bootcamp, Founders and Coders, Joanna recruited three others from the programme, Jamie Coe, Natalie Seeto and Rebecca Botha, to make the site easy to maintain.
Businesses will be able to update their information and offers themselves, and the site and its technology are scalable for use in other local areas.
Johanna’s enthusiasm and vision for the project led Xochitl Benjamin, a fellow resident of Brixton Hill, and a founder of local Brixton Brewery, to get in touch and offer to help out.
“I was so happy to see someone take on something like this for Brixton,” she says.
“I know how hard businesses are working to do whatever they can to survive, adapt, and help people out at a really tough time.
“It’s obviously scary and uncertain, but it’s been so amazing to see people come together to support each other and their communities.”
The two intend to keep working on the project for as long as necessary, and say they would love to see it cover a huge range of businesses and services, from online exercise classes, to fresh food delivery, to essential services.
“If nothing else, we’ve learned how important it is to have a strong community when things are tough.” Says Johanna.
“In the end, even when the lockdown is over, the site will still be there as a directory of businesses and services that helped out when we needed them, so people can continue to support them after.”
BrixtonLocal.Life is online and on @brixtonlocal.life on Instagram and @brixton_local on Twitter.
It can be reached on BrixtonLocal@gmail.com