Social Web for Good: Crowdfunding Better Communities
When the San Francisco Department of Public Health banned Virginia Ramos in June from selling the handmade tamales she’d been peddling for decades in local bars, the office of her city supervisor was inundated with calls from outraged constituents who had come to know and love her.
Ramos, an immigrant who started her business to supplement a job cleaning houses, didn’t initially know where to turn. “I come in from Mexico, I never go to school because I have to work for my kids, I got seven kids, I learn English, I write a little bit (you can see my twitters they’re really bad),” she told SFist at the time. “But if you kids can help me, let me know. Maybe something on the Internet … then later when I’ve got more money then I can start my own little place.”
Supervisor David Campos represents District 9, which encompasses the city’s Mission District, a neighborhood with a strong Latino history that — like many in the city — is rapidly gentrifying. This often leads to tension between tech companies that produce a flood of wealthy professionals and the people who have lived there since before it was hip.
In the conflict, Campos and his team saw an opportunity. The way to legitimize Ramos’ business was to get her in a brick-and-mortar shop, but a commercial kitchen plus rent is expensive, and while she had some savings, it wouldn’t be enough.
So Campos contacted Indiegogo, “to see if, as San Francisco locals, they might be interested in helping us save the Tamale Lady,” he said in a speech on how his office is using crowdfunding to his district’s advantage. Campos’ team worked with the company to set up a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the $50,000 she needs to open up shop, and stay in business.