Miri Levy is the owner of Oakland’s Holy Land restaurant, and like all business owners in the COVID-19 pandemic, she’s had to hustle. She’s a single mom and business owner running a dine-in restaurant, which is incredibly hard in the best of times. Miri took over Holy Land from her parents 20 years ago, and came to PCV when needed help with marketing and promotion to drive new customers. Since she’s started with BusinessAdvising.org, Miri’s been working with 2 mentors. She’s in active partnerships with Niharika Arora (Group Sales & Marketing at Pacific Science Center) and Octavia Hathaway (Consultant at Griffin and Hathaway Law Group).
When the pandemic started, Miri told us, “I was worried that I had to close down and I thought the world was over. PPP loans didn’t work for me. Right away I put ads on social media platforms like Facebook, I let our community know that we needed support and you know what? People came through, we have a great community!” It’s great to see the community step up, because Miri has always cared about the community. On cold-weather days, she’s known for making a pot of hot soup, packing up her truck with snacks and contributions from fellow Oakland restaurants, and delivering meals to those living on the streets.
Miri said, “People in the East Bay came and supported us and now we are working, we’ve gotten many orders. I’m in a war for survival right now and every bit counts! We’re also selling gift cards online so people can support us.” Her advisors are helping her adapt as well. She’s pivoting to online cooking classes and takeout/catering, and working with patrons who can order online, and do pickup in house.
Before COVID-19 Octavia helped Miri with many different things: goals for her business and how to grow. Now, things have changed. She’s working more with partners like Doordash and Caviar to bring more orders into her business, but those services of course take a cut of the profit. Octavia gave her an idea to do curbside pickup, as well as how to most safely do pickup. Miri said, “My location wasn’t exactly built for that, so when drivers come to pick up customers’ orders, we put the food outside on a special table with the order number for them for maximum safety.” In the future, she’’s hoping to work with a PCV mentor to implement a kiosk or POS system for the business so pickup orders won’t have to come into the restaurant.
She also said that Niharika has been amazing, she finds the time to talk even late at night. Miri appreciates that because, as a restaurant owner, she doesn’t get home until 9 or 9:45 at night. Niharika is helping her work on her social media accounts, making sure she’s posting the right content on the right account, and doing research on her competitors. Miri said, “We’re working together to organize these outreach efforts, and are just starting. I’ve been communicating a lot more with my community, learning about the platform, and posting a lot more pictures. With the help of my marketing specialist, I was able to connect my Facebook and Instagram, now when I post on one they both get updated!”
Miri closed by saying, “I felt like I had no options, and I considered closing for my safety. I’m a single mom and I was freaking out. I’m still nervous, but we’re all taking the right precautions now, and I’m keeping our operation small to avoid any additional contact. I work some shifts by myself, I’ve cut additional expenses, and I make it work. I do the shopping, make the food, wash the dishes, I’m doing what it takes to stay open! One of my employees was scared at the beginning, I respected that. I implemented gloves and masks into our work, smaller shifts, and curbside pickup.”
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