How Supporting Local Businesses and Philanthropic Causes Helped This Business Owner Find Success

This week we speak to Angela Shen, owner and founder of Savor Seattle, about conscious consumerism, customer service and knowing your limits.
How Supporting Local Businesses and Philanthropic Causes Helped This Business Owner Find Success
Image credit: Savor Seattle

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

Many people care about small businesses and philanthropic causes, but truly making a difference takes a little something more. In our final episode during Women’s History Month, I spoke with Angela Shen, owner and founder of Savor Seattle. Angela cares deeply about her local community, advocates for a number of social causes, and actively supports women-owned businesses.

Before March 2020, Savor Seattle gave in-person food tours to locals and tourists, highlighting some of the city’s most popular places. When the pandemic hit, everything halted, and Savor Seattle reinvited itself entirely . “Overnight, our entire tourism infrastructure and the food and restaurant business collapsed. So we quickly scrambled to come up with a way to save jobs as well as support our food community that we've become ambassadors of for the past 14 years. So we figured, if we can't bring people to these restaurants anymore, why don't we try to bring the food directly to them? And that's how the idea of our curated local food boxes came to be.”

The touring company started supporting the local community through an entirely different business model, and our Yelp reviewer, Vy M., a Vietnamese immigrant and healthcare worker, was one of the first recipients of Angela’s new venture.

With each box, Angela curates a unique package that can actually feed a family of four, all while supporting the local community. But she doesn’t stop there—Angela is passionate about a number of philanthropic causes and doesn’t just talk the talk. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Angela compiled a box that featured 11 Black-owned businesses to raise money for the Black Lives Matter fund, enabling her to donate more than $18,000. And again, she didn’t stop there. Every box they sold in 2020 had a philanthropic component, and in just nine months, Angela was able to donate more than $100,000 to local nonprofits.

There’s so much to be learned from the way Angela has run her business and especially from how Savor Seattle successfully pivoted in the midst of the pandemic, but here are just a few lessons we cover in this episode:

  • Conscious consumerism is here to stay. Consumers are more interested than ever in spending their money with businesses whose values they support and that align with their own. By supporting causes that she is passionate about, Angela not only gets to give back but also engages consumers who care where their dollars go.
  • Customer service reigns supreme. It can’t be said enough—great customer service is essential, and Savor Seattle has it in spades. In Angela’s words, “It’s the most important part of the buying experience and building trust.” She recognizes that people want a personal touch. It’s what they remember and what keeps them coming back.
  • Know your limits. Angela’s curated box business became so popular that it took on a life of its own. While it was essential for them when the pandemic first hit, as time went on, it grew more than she could have imagined. In order for the box business to reach its full potential, Angela knew that long term it needed to be run by someone with the proper infrastructure. It could have been tempting to do it all, but in my experience, it can be best to do a fewer things better.

Angela recognizes and celebrates that her own inspiration can inspire the needed change around her. “I take it as a personal challenge being not only a female, but a minority female-owned business, to do everything that I can to challenge the status quo, to do things in a way that aren't just about meeting our needs. If we can create a win-win in every situation, then that's when one plus one equals three.”

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Angela and Vy, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

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