Alum startup Project Retail helps small businesses during COVID-19

September 16, 2020
Hanna Lankler, '20, graduated from the Robins School in the middle of a pandemic, and knew she wanted to do something valuable.

Hanna Lankler, ’20, graduated from the Robins School in the middle of a pandemic, and knew she wanted to do something valuable.

She served as president of the Robins School SGA and received the Charles Norman Award, the highest award given to a student in the Robins School, which comes with a cash prize. Lankler used the money she received from the award to launch Project Retail, a site that markets and sells curated collections of products from small businesses at no cost to them. 

“Knowing my strengths and experience, I found this was an area in which I could help out,” Lankler said. “It is so critical to support small businesses, especially now– they give so much to our communities and Project Retail strives to make it easier than ever to support them in return.”

According to Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the Robins School, small retail businesses in particular have suffered massive losses during the pandemic.

 “Retailers that were not considered essential found themselves closed for most of the spring due to the pandemic,” Arnold said. “A number of small businesses simply could not reopen after so much inactivity.”

Lankler hopes to help retail businesses struggling to keep their doors open by providing free marketing and professionally produced content in the form of product photography from Lankler’s internal studio.

“My goal in launching Project Retail was to adjust the traditional model to match our new normal, to assist local retailers by empowering consumers to shop with them in a streamlined and modern way,” Lankler said. “That was something I was unable to find and something I believed the market was missing.”

Project Retail grew quickly, and soon Lankler found herself hiring additional team members, one of which  is Ava Cummings, ’21, a current Robins School student who serves as partner relations lead. 

“So many of the skills necessary to succeeding in my position at Project Retail are ones I've learned from my Robins School classes,” Cummings said. “For instance, as partner relations lead I am constantly communicating with current and potential partners over email and phone calls, a skill I refined in Business Communications. Additionally, I use a great deal of what I learned in IT and Data Analytics while working on Excel to organize our item inventories and partner outreach efforts.” 

Cummings says she is grateful for the opportunity to hone her skills, and make a difference for those struggling due to the pandemic.

“Helping to run Project Retail as a current student has been an amazing experience,” Cummings said. “It's incredible to be able to apply the skills I learn each week in my business and marketing classes to a role in which I am so passionate about.”

Bill Bergman, lecturer in marketing, advised Lankler in the early days of her endeavor, and says her drive to help others will make Project Retail successful.

“She has the intellect, strength, and work ethic to succeed at anything she does,” Bergman said.

“I am so grateful to the amazing partners of Project Retail for taking a chance on me and, of course, to our clients for supporting our mission,” Lankler said.

You can find out more about Project Retail, and other Spider businesses, on our Support Spider Businesses page.