In 2017, Flavia Moore wanted a way to bring in some extra money so she could take her four young children on a Disney cruise. She began selling seafood platters out of her St. Louis apartment under the name Crawling Crab. When she advertised on Facebook the posts went viral – and she knew she had the chance to make some big changes. During Crawling Crab’s first weekend, Moore took in more money than she typically made in two full weeks working as a customer service representative. On Monday morning, she quit her job to focus on her new business full time.
By 2019, Crawling Crab had outgrown the limited space in Moore’s apartment. She connected with Beyond Housing, a nationally recognized community development organization and a regular community partner of U.S. Bank. “I met [Beyond Housing Economic Development Specialist] Erica Hallman at an event where I was selling seafood,” said Moore. “She said it was so good she licked the aluminum foil.”
Hallman knew she’d found something special. She worked with the rest of the Beyond Housing economic development team to help Moore open a full-service restaurant in the organization’s 24:1 Initiative building and bring Crawling Crab’s seafood to the masses.
“We know the path can be difficult for small businesses owned by Black women in the best of times, let alone when childcare and family support become an issue,” said Hallman. “We’re committed to the Crawling Crab’s success because we believe in Flavia’s concept and her business acumen – and her food is delicious.”
In March 2020, Moore had expanded enough to become the sole tenant in the space – and then the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Like most restaurant owners, Moore was managing closures, restrictions, safety guidelines and staffing issues and couldn’t keep up with growing the business. Crawling Crab was struggling.
“I was busy working in the business rather than on the business,” Moore said. “I knew the pandemic would eventually be over, so I tried not to panic. After every winter there’s a spring, and I just had to wait for the flowers to bloom.”
That’s why the U.S. Bank campus relations team and the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation partnered with Beyond Housing to find a way to help. This summer, the 16 future leaders attending our master’s level summer internship program are competing in a case competition to support Moore and Crawling Crab during the post-pandemic recovery.
In addition to pursuing graduate degrees, the interns in our master’s level program are spending 10 weeks this summer working in areas across the company to refine their skills, leadership abilities, interests and career goals. The case competition is one of the ways they’ll gain real-world business experience while also making a difference in the community.
“Our case competition means our interns must work as a team while at the same time building their own skills,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Elcio Barcelos. “It also lets us support the Crawling Crab and my home city of St. Louis when they need it most. These future leaders are truly representing the best of U.S. Bank and experiencing firsthand how we put people first.”
The interns split into four teams, each of which will craft a proposal to help Crawling Crab thrive, both now and in the future. Two teams are focusing on marketing strategies to increase Crawling Crab’s digital footprint and increase customer and community engagement, and two teams are developing financial strategies to stabilize the business post-pandemic and increase cash flow over the next three years.
“I was so excited when I heard Crawling Crab had been chosen,” said Moore. “I knew the results would help me better understand my business and know how and where to spend my limited time.”
“Working at U.S. Bank this summer has taught me to always keep the customer front and center when building a strategy,” said intern Hannah Kalka. “This project put into perspective what [U.S. Bank CEO] Andy Cecere said during the first day of orientation: A bank doesn’t make or create anything, but we’re at the center of everything people do. Everyone at U.S. Bank is a partner to people across the country who have a goal and a dream that we can help bring to life.”
The teams will build persuasive business cases by identifying the big questions, creating a work plan and conducting research, including market reports, case studies, interviews and surveys.
“I was surprised by how much we needed to really understand the business environment,” said intern Wrutee Nyuah. “Going into the competition, I was unaware of all the internal components that make up a business, like delivery methods, employee training and customer service. That knowledge has led our team to tangible solutions that we can focus our time on refining.”
All teams will pitch their proposals to Moore, who will implement the plan that most improves her business model. In addition, the members of the winning team will receive $1,000 scholarships to use toward their graduate degrees.
“The interns are so interested in the success of the Crawling Crab and very willing to help,” Moore said. “Their work will give me a better understanding of how to scale and market my business properly.”
Ultimately, Moore hopes to set up wholesale and retail options for her sauces and seasonings, keep her restaurant open 24 hours a day, add a drive-thru window and franchise additional locations.
“Crawling Crab’s success is due to Flavia’s vision and hard work,” Kalka said. “She has shown that being a mother doesn’t stand in the way of dreams, but instead can inspire them.”