Can Consumers Take the Lead in Disaster Recovery?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen. What’s more, the entrepreneurial spirit around the globe continues to rise to new heights, but I just sit here and think about this sobering statistic. With 40 percent of small businesses failing after a disaster, combined with the already dismal survival rate of start-ups – I ask myself why we should even bother.

I listen to Elvis Presley during discouraging moments like these. I find the only remedy to the doldrums is a little less conversation, a little more action please. So I clearly annoyed a few old professors and mentors until they decided to help me design a social enterprise platform called Recovery Pledge. We designed this platform to solve the problem of small business failure after a disaster. 

From Hurricane Katrina and Sandy to the recent fires in California and Colorado, disasters just happen. When they occur, charitable organizations respond with temporary shelter, food, clothing and social services. However, what we really need is a purely private sector approach to disaster recovery to compliment the work of charitable organizations. We need to redirect our consumption patterns to disaster areas. We need to build a marketplace whereby you can support small businesses by purchasing their products and services immediately after a disaster to stabilize their sales.

I came up with this outlandish idea to flip the B2C model to C2B. The goal is to encourage consumers to buy a Recovery Pledge membership for their favorite small business before a disaster actually occurs. Then, in the event of a disaster the small business can continue to sell goods and services through "recovery pledges”, which are simply same-as-cash vouchers.  Basically, we want consumers to take the lead in disaster recovery by redirecting their consumption patterns to small businesses that have been affected by a disaster. 

So here is the big question. Can consumers take the lead in disaster recovery? We shall see. Recovery Pledge launched a crowd-funding campaign on August 15th, 2013 to validate the idea. Life is about to get very interesting for this entrepreneur.   


Christopher Girdwood

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