Change Makers – People looking after each other and transforming lives with technology

  • 28/05/2020
  • Sponsored by - Dell

New Zealand’s first Dell 'Change Maker' SOS Business says it’s all about celebrating volunteers.

Creator David Downs said he started the website on the Monday the PM announced New Zealand was going into Level Four lockdown. 'I thought 'wow this is major'. I spoke to a cafe owner that day and thought I’d like to help them out, and it turned out a lot of people in my neighbourhood wanted to help out too.”

Local businesses are the lifeline of local communities and local regions. The SOS idea allows people to buy vouchers or gift cards for their local cafe and restaurant through the website, which could be redeemed later when businesses reopened. 

"Straight away we received an amazing response. It made a huge difference to businesses- so they could keep paying the rent, leases, staff salaries, ACC levies and everything else.

"For one cafe their freezer broke down just before the lockdown and they had no money to buy a new one, and all the food would’ve been wasted. But with help from our vouchers they were able to buy a new freezer," he says.

David initially thought it would be an easy couple of hours a day to fill during lockdown, instead the innovative SOS concept took off. "The first couple of weeks were chaotic but I was helped so much by the team of volunteers. And it's been enlightening to see how people can pull together so fast."

Downs says it’s very cool SOS Business is recognised as the first Dell Change Maker and to feature on The Project, but he’s quick to point out it's not just about him. "It's really about all the volunteers who put their hands up to help. I was helped by a huge team of people. Many are cafe owners themselves, and they all asked ‘how can we help?"

"So being the first Dell Change Maker is really a celebration of them. We had never met before COVID, and we all met over the internet."

The 'Change Makers' are New Zealand individuals that are helping build change for a better future using technology. Dell and The Project will promote and recognize positive social impact contributions where every little thing makes a difference when it comes to sustainability, inclusion and life transformation.

Downs who lives in Devonport, is New Zealand Trade and Enterprise projects general manager and The Well Foundation chairman. He has a technical background, and the skills to set up such an innovative website. 

In the beginning he expected to showcase just a few dozen cafes. There are now more than 2,500 Kiwi businesses signed up. As the website grew he was helped by some 'incredible volunteers’, and was able to set up a bigger and faster e-commerce site.

The stats are impressive. "There are now 2,500 businesses signed up with $1.5 million vouchers sold all around New Zealand. Every town in NZ is represented. Half the businesses made more than $1000, and everyone made something," he says. 

"We essentially created a database of local businesses across New Zealand, and the value now comes from corporates and others being able to buy vouchers for their staff or customers.

"We’ll keep continuing on because we think the concept has so much value. Plus we now have a directory of local businesses. 

"It also shows communities looking after each other - the idea of thinking local and shopping local has really caught on," Downs says.

"We started out with cafes, restaurants and bars, and that’s still 65% of it. But many other businesses reached out and wanted to join up - like retailers, hairdressers and nail salons and much more."

The SOS concept became more than just about the money, the businesses just loved feeling so supported by their local communities. "They knew their customers really had their backs… really is a case of small communities looking after each other," Down says.

One Whanganui cafe owner emailed Downs and said "more than the dollars magically deposited, it is the sentiment and "buy in" from our loyal customers that you have enabled. It has made the difference in determining our businesses future."

As part of its Change Maker campaign Dell is also recognising individuals that go above and beyond to support and shape a better future for their communities. Each Dell Community Change Maker will be awarded with a Dell XPS 13 Laptop. Click here to nominate someone to win this fantastic prize.

Sending out an SOS:

How SOS has helped local Kiwi businesses-

Vendors – 2,568, about 65% are cafes, restaurants – the rest are other small businesses

Orders placed – 28,000+

Vouchers sold – 70,000+

Order value - $1,500,000+

Average order value - $54

Most earned by a vender - $20,000

Average over all vendors - $600 each

To nominate someone click here and they could be the next Change Maker.

This article is brought to you by Dell