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How Small Businesses Are Aiding Tsunami Victims

Nimble entrepreneurs are combining goodwill and marketing savvy to help with relief efforts in Japan, just as they have after past catastrophic events.

“If they can be good citizens and promote their business at the same time, that’s a win-win situation,” says Eric Bradlow, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Here are some examples of how small-business owners are lending a helping hand:

  • On Friday, Meteor Games LLC created and began selling virtual cherry blossom trees, with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. So far more than 1,000 have been sold for $7 apiece to players of the four-year-old firm’s Facebook game, Island Paradise. Meteor Games, headquartered in Beverly Hills, Calif., will soon also begin selling virtual Japanese maples trees for $3.50 and koi ponds for $4.50, and all proceeds will also go to the American Red Cross.
  • Survival-kit marketer 1-800-PREPARE.com LLC is giving away 15,000 water-purification tablets to Relief International. Last year, the company donated the same number of tablets to a nonprofit involved in relief efforts in Haiti following an earthquake that rocked the Caribbean country in January 2010.
  • Coupon company Drop Down Deals LLC is pledging to donate up to $1 million to the UNICEF. The San Diego concern, which formed just last summer and has 60 employees, will contribute $1 to the global nonprofit every time someone signs up for its free coupon plug-in until the cap is reached.
  • Etón Corp. of Palo Alto, Calif. is sending roughly 4,000 of its home-safety and preparedness products — such as self- and solar-powered radios and flashlights — to Operation USA, an international relief agency.
  • Zmags Inc., a Boston-based provider of digital-publishing software, used its own technology to create a free interactive e-book that tells the story of what happened in Japan and links to the websites of five charities that are collecting funds for relief efforts. The five-year-old business is also matching any financial contributions its 60 employees make to help out overseas.
  • Innovative New Products LLC, a year-old toothbrush manufacturer, is donating 500 of its EZ-4 brushes, which each retail for $9.99, to the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C. Owner Mitra Ahadpour, a medical doctor with a master’s in oral physiology, is based in nearby Rockville, Md., and says she will drop of the goods in person.
  • Langosta Lounge, a casual-dining eatery in Asbury Park, N.J., is augmenting a half-price sushi promotion it’s been running for the past two months by promising to give half of sales the discounted price to the ARC as well.
  • Radiation Shield Technologies Inc., a Medley, Fla., manufacturer since 1998 with 30 employees, has pledged to donate approximately 100 of its full-body nuclear radiation suits, which retail for around $1,700 each, to a distributor that will ship them to nuclear-plant workers and emergency responders in Japan.
  • Through April 15 the American Red Cross will receive from Code42 Software Inc. 10% of sales of CrashPlan+, the Minneapolis company’s on-site, off-site and cloud-based back-up service, which starts at $24.99 a year.