Sadiq Khan has launched a crowdfunding site so Londoners can help keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Mayor wants residents to support small businesses running short of cash by buying goods in advance – with vouchers they can redeem when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
London is home to more than half a million small and medium-sized businesses, making up more than 99% of all businesses in the capital, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Many are now running short on cash, as Government restrictions have forced high streets to shut down and money worries curb public spending.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised Government-backed loans to stop any business going under because of the virus.
But businesses across the country say they’ve been refused money by banks, with the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry warning that the financial sector must step up to the “national cause”.
Alongside his crowd-funding campaign, the Mayor has promised an extra £1 million of business support through the London Growth Hub over the next year.
The service offers phone and web chat advice, online seminars and guidance on the pandemic.
Mr Khan said small businesses in the capital are “facing enormous challenges” because of coronavirus.
The economic impact will be “far-reaching and long-lasting”, he said – but promised to do everything possible to support business.
The Mayor said: “Londoners value their local independent shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and other small businesses
“I’m confident that this goodwill means many will be happy to pay for goods and services now so that they can continue to enjoy them when things get back to normal.”
Businesses can now launch campaigns on the Pay it Forward London website, and the public can nominate their favourite shops and restaurants and encourage them to sign up.
The site is powered by Crowdfunder, and the entrepreneurship platform will waive its normal operating fees and transaction costs for small firms using the service.
There are currently (20 April) 24 campaigns on the site, bringing together some London businesses that had already started fundraising.
Hackney Wick’s Barge East has already reached its £27,000 target – more than 400 customers have backed the floating restaurant, buying vouchers for food, drinks, and a reopening party.
Federation of Small Businesses’ London chairman, Michael Lassman, said the Mayor’s scheme could be a “lifeline” for many struggling businesses.
He said: “Support at this time will pay dividends in the long run as it will help maintain jobs and sustain a the heartbeat of London’s economy.”
Crowdfunder chief executive Rob Love said Pay it Forward London would help firms “bounce back quickly” after the pandemic.
He said: “Continued trading ensures businesses can stay connected with their customers and enables London’s entrepreneurs to adapt their offering.”