South LA

Trojan Shop Local campaign shows love for small businesses around USC

The initiative was created with hopes of supporting small businesses struggling with sales during the pandemic.

A photo of Kim Prince, owner of Hotville Chicken and another staff posing in front of their restaurant. The shop is part of the Trojans Shop Local initiative.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated small businesses. According to a CBS News report, three out of 10 small businesses will likely not survive the pandemic, and eight out of 10 minority-owned small businesses are struggling financially.

Local businesses around Los Angeles — and around USC — are no exception. Kim Prince, the founder of Hotville Chicken, a local Black-owned Nashville-style chicken restaurant located four miles from the University Park Campus, saw a drop in income.

Hotville Chicken was only open for three months before being hit by the pandemic. “We were drowning,” Prince said, citing a 50% loss in sales. “Here it is now over a year later, we have yet to see sales back at our pre-pandemic number.”

Andrew McDowell, CEO of With Love Market & Café, a grocery store and café located less than two miles from campus, also said he has not been able to fully recover since the start of the pandemic.

“I would not say that the volume is back to close to what it was prior to the pandemic,” McDowell said. “However, it is better than it was a year ago. There are gradual increases, but not yet enough to bring most businesses back above water.”

USC noticed local businesses were struggling to stay afloat and launched the Trojan Shop Local initiative at the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester. The campaign aims to uplift small businesses like Prince’s and McDowell’s, especially after the pandemic.

“Trojan Shop Local was conceived to be a part of the business recovery for our local and diverse shops around our campuses,” said Dr. Michèle G. Turner, the associate vice president of business diversity and economic opportunity at USC, and a leader of the Trojan Shop Local initiative.

Dr. Turner said the campaign is not just about local businesses, but about local businesses that are diverse.

“Our diverse businesses were severely impacted by the pandemic, and we’re hoping that the Trojan community can show these businesses some love so that there’s equity in terms of how we recover,” Dr. Turner said.

One way Trojan Shop Local is hoping to promote local businesses is with the Trojan Local Treasures Scavenger Hunt. Students, alumni, faculty and staff are all invited to try out 60 new restaurants and shops in the Trojan Shop Local network for the chance to win a free lunch at Guelaguetza, a local Mexican restaurant, or a gift card to With Love LA and Hotville Chicken.

To participate, USC community members are required to follow the Trojan Shop Local Instagram and tag the account in a picture of themselves at a participating business.

As a result of the scavenger hunt, local business owners say they have seen an influx of USC students supporting them.

“[I] have seen a lot of students come through here as a result of the postings that have been going up and they’re tagging Hotville and people are finding us,” Prince said. “So, that’s what made me excited about continuing to support [Trojan Shop Local].”

Dr. Turner said the idea behind Trojan Shop Local is simple.

“We’re all here together, and if we can support each other, we all thrive,” said Dr. Turner. “That’s what’s important to us. So, we thank you for shopping local.”

The Trojan Shop Local scavenger hunt will continue through Nov. 30.