Jake and Claire Counsell are among them, though the Tam Valley couple ply very different tools to do so. They created MarinBusinesses, an app and website designed for a sole purpose: to help spread community awareness about what local businesses are up to during the crisis.
The couple – Jake is a software architect and designer, and Claire dabbles in marketing, design, and business development – moved to Mill Valley two years ago. They say they were compelled to launch the site in the early days of the pandemic by a pair of factors: a strong desire to help, and some unexpected additional free time.
Bay Area native Jake Counsel has worked in the tech industry for a decade, including stints at Pandora, Ustream, Metromile, Zinio and on brands like Nike, Absolut, Johnson & Johnson and Visa. Claire’s past few gigs have been in social marketing and growth hacking, primarily acquisition and retention.
Jake Counsell was working at a biomedical company, creating new digital features around predictive healthcare. “A lot of big data sets and visualization, recreating their navigation architecture,” he says. “They kept having layoffs, which was cool and gave me some autonomy, but they were having funding issues before COVID. I was eventually one of the casualties.”
Counsell notes that he and his wife are now on the second massive economic downturn of their young careers, with the 2008 recession “something that really affected my my life negatively, hitting my family and friends really hard.”
“So when this all started started with the pandemic, I was very concerned right away,” he says. “I knew that the ramifications of this were going to be unforeseen and far worse than than 2007-8 crash.
“We wanted it to be completely autonomous – we really don’t want to benefit in any way from this,” Counsell says.
Within less than a week, and after at least a pair of all-nighters, they had cobbled together a gorgeous, engaging digital platform that they hope could be simply a support system for local businesses, as opposed to one of the many tech companies built to create a marketplace for third party providers taking a portion of each customer transaction for services like promotion and delivery.
“It’s sad to see so many businesses and individuals see (this crisis) as an opportunity to come out ahead,” Counsell says.
But while MarinBusinesses has helped some businesses reach a wider audience or optimize their social media marketing, they’ve also stepped in to amplify community needs. For 40-year-old, San Rafael-based Davis Sign Co., MarinBusinesses helped create a campaign for donations to propel their ability to manufacture high quality polycarbonate face shields to Marin General Hospital.
“There are emotional ramifications to these sorts of efforts,” Counsell says. “We need to all lean in and help each other out.”