via Raphael House's Facebook page (

Ziba Pays It Forward

3 min read

In times of crisis, we naturally withdraw. We tend to take a step back in fear, not a step forward towards something. The current pandemic was no different, with businesses tightening budgets, and bracing for the unknown.

Ziba wasn’t exempt from this uncertainty, or the instinct to contract. But early on we made a decision to lean into expansion instead, in the small ways we could. We decided to Pay It Forward, especially to the local community that’s supported us over the years. Every year, Ziba allocates part of our budget for catering, monthly company meetings and an annual holiday party. In 2020, of course, in-person meetings abruptly stopped, and the annual holiday party was called off. In light of the crisis affecting everyone around us, we decided instead to inject those dollars back into the community rather than hang on to them. Here are three ways we decided to share the love:

Local Hangs Scavenger Hunt

In the early days of the pandemic, Ziba was still grappling to understand the landscape, both for ourselves and for our clients. But one of the most obvious, immediate impacts was the sudden halt of in-person meetings, and the subsequent loss of business for the local eateries and food carts that usually catered them.

Tali Ovadia, the founder of the Whole Bowl via The New York Times (

So in April, we hosted an at-home scavenger hunt for everyone in the studio, and let the winning team choose which businesses to donate the unused funds to. For the local food cart and two cafes selected by the winning team, it was a small infusion of cash to help keep them afloat during the shutdown. For the Ziba team, it was a fun, morale-boosting event that helped brighten the early, nervous days of working from home —and improved the chances we’d still be able to enjoy their cooking next year.

In March, we were automatically welcomed into each other’s homes in the form of video meetings—which, despite seeing less of each other in-person, made us all feel a little closer on a personal level. The scavenger hunt was a fun way to share a little more about our homes, connect outside of work and be a little silly/competitive... all on behalf of our favorite (and dearly missed) local lunch spots. Ziba asked each team to choose a local restaurant to make a donation to in lieu of the business our lunch breaks and catering provided pre-COVID. Let’s just say the competition was stiff, but everyone was all smiles!

Virtual Giving Tree

Raphael House is a 40-year old organization committed to helping domestic violence survivors and their families find safety, hope and independence. And every year for the past 5 years, Ziba has made a point of supporting them with a little holiday cheer, in the form of Christmas gifts.

Raphael House Advocates via the Raphael House Facebook Page (

In past years, employees grabbed “tags” from a Christmas Tree. This year, with no tree to gather around, Ziba created a Virtual Giving Tree platform where we could contribute gift cards, housing application fees, and support funding for Raphael House families. Ziba matched all staff contributions, plus its own donation, as well as five computers for the organization.

For employees, supporting Raphael House was a way to show camaraderie, and started a tradition we’ll surely continue in future years:

I wanted to help the people in my community, who may feel that their stress is something that they carry alone, to feel more supported by others in their community.

Holiday Cheer

For the past 34 years, Ziba has thrown an annual holiday party— a celebration of our work, our clients and the spirit of the company. This year, we used the party budget to gift it forward. With the help of the studio, we created a list of local businesses we love, both established and new.

Nong Poonsukwattana, Owner of Nong's Khao Man Gai (via

Using a custom survey, a small team of dedicated designers and studio leads asked every employee to select their favorite local businesses for holiday shopping, then surprised them with a personal gift card package near the end of the year. This gave us a creative way to thank our employees during a difficult year, and to provide needed support for local businesses. Of the business picked, 93% were local, 53% were woman-owned, and 31% were BIPOC-owned, and they included a mix of smaller establishments such as Ritual and Nong’s Kao Man Gai, as well as local mainstays like Powell’s Books.

In certain cases, stores like Powell’s called us back to confirm the purchase due to the larger amount—just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake! In the end, giving back to our community by redirecting dollars added to the cheer and goodwill of the holiday season. Employees were delighted and excited by the personalized touch, as well as the chance to support their favorite shops.

Covid-19 has created a massive humanitarian challenge. Confronting this unique moment, communities have shifted how they consume and purchase in expedient and ingenious ways. The changes may have been birthed of necessity, but they have great potential beyond this crisis. We are beyond grateful and amazed by the support from the community near and far. As we continue to keep our heads above the water, keep the lights on in hope that by continuing serving chicken and rice, we can help our team and our community to survive and stay strong to keep on surviving. As humans have faced many challenges before us. We all will come out from this together and stronger. Turning new leaves and gain new muscles. Thank you all for supporting us. You have made such a big difference to our lives at Nong’s

In the end, redirecting our event and catering budgets wasn’t driven by a desire to feel-good or make an impression, though it does that, too. Ziba was built on values of humility and mutual care, and this crisis offered a chance to confirm who we are, and what values we all believe in.

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