From her 13th floor window of a beautiful Tel Aviv office building, Georgina Green looked out on an abnormally desolate city at the height of the pandemic and felt sad for all the closed businesses.
Green, a 30-year-old émigré from London, told her employees at GMT, a marketing agency for apps, that she wanted to build an app enabling people to order goods from Israeli mom-and-pop stores.
“Within a day we had a website, within a week we’d hired amazing developers – two very young, brilliant new immigrants — and within a month and a half we had a functioning app.”
Two and a half months later, the BeeZee app has 5,000 downloads, 100 shops and another 200 waiting to be onboarded, and a growing team of employees working under CFO Yaniv Harel, Green’s husband.
And even though BeeZee is run as a business rather than an NGO, it is free of charge to participating shopkeepers. In other words, it generates no income for Green and Harel.
“I don’t believe in making money from people’s misery,” Green tells ISRAEL21c.
“I’ve lived in this country for 10 years and it’s given me a beautiful family and a successful business. It was an impulse decision and it’s my gift back to Israel for the gifts that I already received.”
Shipping is domestic only, but people anywhere in the world can use BeeZee to order Israeli toys, clothes, accessories, cosmetics, chocolate, wine, bakery items or pet products for delivery to friends or relatives in Israel.
“I didn’t realize how much amazing stuff we have in Israel,” says Green. “Some of these shops don’t have an online presence and some do, but it’s never enough. All are losing a huge amount of business.”
The participating shops were recruited in Tel Aviv through leafleting and across Israel through social media.
“We don’t take any commission and are doing it totally for free so they can upload and sell their products. We organize all the logistics,” Green says.
The digital media specialist and mother of two young children admits “it’s bonkers” to run BeeZee at a loss, yet she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We all have a social responsibility. If we’re succeeding, we have to help people who are not succeeding. Donating money is not enough; we have to create technologies for people to sustain themselves. If businesses shut down, the economy will collapse and we’ll all suffer,” says Green.
BeeZee was born during the pandemic but Green sees its mission in a larger light.
“The biggest goal for me is to connect the country from the Golan to Eilat. I want people to be able to buy inside Israel from anywhere.”
She points out that Covid-19 is hardly the only crisis Israel has to contend with. Conflicts with Gaza regularly flare up, leaving shopkeepers on the border vulnerable. “The businesses in Sderot need help as well for all the times they have to shut down.”
Green says she wants BeeZee to “create a bit of hope for business owners in a hopeless situation.”
However, she adds, “No one is really helpless; we just need to change strategy and create economic sustainability. We are the startup nation and we are known for creativity and innovation so we must be clever enough to create solutions.”