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February 3, 2021

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Open Sign Project supports local businesses and philanthropic organizations

What started as a calendar design has morphed into a larger initiative to support local businesses and philanthropic organizations around Richmond, VA.

Brandcenter students Dani Loleng (XD, 2021), Payal Pereira (ST, 2021), Kate Power (CW, 2021), Brittany Reid (AD, 2021), and Ali Weiner (ST, 2021) launched Open Sign Project in February 2021. Their mission: to create products that help connect Richmonders to local restaurants, businesses, and philanthropic organizations. Their first product is a 2021 calendar highlighting Black-owned restaurants in Richmond, available now.

The idea for Open Sign Project came when the pandemic first hit in March 2020; the team wanted to release a calendar to celebrate the resilience of Black-owned restaurants in Richmond and the hope of a new calendar year. They developed a microsite to accompany their product, featuring interviews that highlight entrepreneurs’ backstories.

Once the calendar and microsite came together, the Brandcenter students expanded from just the Open Sign Calendar to Open Sign Project. “We saw a pattern forming: using new products to highlight local businesses and benefit local philanthropic organizations,” says Payal Pereira. “This model will allow us to house any new projects under one umbrella as we keep doing our small part in keeping some open signs of Richmond on.”

Their first product, the calendar, focuses on the theme, “making meals matter.” It highlights Black-owned restaurants such as Ipanema Cafe, Ruby Scoops, and Soul Taco. The profits go to RVA Community Fridges, a group that fights food insecurity by giving away free, healthy food all over Richmond.

“Through the calendar, we hope to encourage people to order from these restaurants, but also others in the BLK RVA network. Through the website, we hope to share the stories, insights, and passion behind each entrepreneur so people can really get a sense of who they are. And through a philanthropic model, we hope to encourage people to get to know more humanitarian groups doing work around them,” says Pereira.

The Open Sign Project will rotate products and themes to help achieve their goals.

Check out Open Sign Project on their site, where you can also order a calendar in support of their mission.