Students Help Local Businesses Adjust to the “New Normal”
By Anne Levin
Since his recent graduation from Princeton University, Sunny Singh Sandhu has moved to Washington, D.C., where he will start a consulting job with Deloitte in the fall. But Sandhu has maintained ties to the Princeton business community, where he and two classmates founded Tigers for Nassau a few months ago, to help local restaurants have a stronger digital presence during the COVID-19 crisis.
This is the second local venture for Sandhu, who cofounded Connect for COVID-19 with his brother Manraj Singh to provide remote access for patients who are hospitalized and isolated.
With Tigers for Nassau, Sandhu and cofounders Neel Ajjarapu and Kevin Hou have been working closely with the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA) by attending the organization’s regular Zoom meetings. They have provided assistance to the Homestead Princeton store and Small World cafe, and they plan to continue with additional restaurants and retail establishments.
“The problems caused by COVID-19 in Princeton have resonated with us, because this is where we have lived for four years and these are the restaurants and cafes and businesses we have gone to,” said Sandhu. “We started thinking about how we could leverage our abilities, and those of other Princeton University students, to help. We now have close to 50-plus students involved, and we are working to see what the need is across Princeton.”
The partners’ original focus on restaurants was broadened to include retail establishments once they saw there was a strong need. “After working with the PMA and [Princeton Councilwoman] Michelle Pirone Lambros, we realized this is not just a restaurant problem,” said Sandhu. They all have to adapt not only for coming days, but coming months and years. This is the new normal.”
Ron Menapace, owner of Homestead Princeton, credits Tigers for Nassau with helping to update the store’s website to make it more user friendly. The store on Hulfish Street was not set up for e-commerce.
“We built a business based on customer service in a gathering space,” said Menapace. “So they are helping us revamp our website, because that’s how people are shopping right now. We’ve had about three people working on it, and they have been a tremendous help. Our current site is independent of our inventory list, so this should be more of an integrated system.”
Menapace said Homestead Princeton is planning a move next month from Palmer Square to the front half of the former Princeton Packet building on Witherspoon Street, where it will share space with Capital Health’s recently announced clinic. “This will help us not only with our website, but when we move into the Packet building,” he said.
At Small World, Tigers for Nassau has been performing the initial research into online ordering and payment solutions. “There is a wide variety of options,” said owner Jessica Durrie. “They have been helping us eliminate the solutions that aren’t a good fit for our business. They’re doing the legwork, which allows our staff to stay focused on navigating the increasingly changing situation, because there are a ton of other things that need to get done.”
Tigers for Nassau has been working at Small World with Zachary Kos, whom Durrie calls her “Zak of all trades” since he does IT, bookkeeping, payroll, profit analysis, “and can sew a tuxedo,” she said. “It’s been nice to have them as the arms and legs to allow him to do all the things he does.”
Sandhu said Tigers for Nassau is also researching different companies that might be able to offer additional assistance to restaurants and businesses in Princeton. While Small World and Homestead Princeton are the only current clients, the plan is to extend the outreach.
“We want to make sure we’re helping with them before we move on and over-extend our services,” he said. “We want to actually make an impact with them. We will keep this going, wherever there is a need.”