Shop Where I Live Co-Founders Cherie & Robert Edilson were both local small business owners when they started shopwhereilive.com (originally Cedar Rapids Marketplace). Cherie Edilson was a craft business owner selling her handmade products at local farmers markets and craft fairs, along with online sales through her website and Amazon.com. Robert Edilson was a website developer, creating websites for local area businesses.
In the winter of 2016, Cherie participated as a vendor in a small craft fair with at least 30 other small businesses. For most businesses with handmade products, there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for a show. It takes time to create enough inventory, often crafting for weeks ahead of time, then setting up the night before or in the early morning hours in preparation. Unfortunately, because there was heavy snow the night before and the early start of the craft fair, the craft fair ended up having very poor attendance from customers. When Cherie looked around that show, she could see the disappointment in the vendors faces, that all their time and money was at a loss. She knew most of them were not selling online and craft fairs was their main means of making money for their business.
That’s when she called her husband Robert and encouraged him to attend the craft fair with their four young children. Shopping at the craft fair would be a good way for their children to buy Christmas gifts for the family, and support local businesses while doing so. Their children delighted as they stopped by each booth to discover the treasures within.
After the craft fair ended, Robert and Cherie thought they could do more to help their community. With Robert being a web developer and Cherie’s knowledge of selling online and to the local community, they wanted to connect local businesses and local customers outside of one-time shopping events. They created the Cedar Rapids Marketplace, an online website for their local community in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
They started the Cedar Rapids Marketplace website wth just a few local craft vendors, and grew it add on several other service businesses through a directory as well as direct sales businesses. After a year of building, testing, and improving the Cedar Rapids Marketplace they joined the Iowa Startup Accelerator in the Spring of 2018 to take the local marketplace concept to more cities.
Because Cedar Rapids Marketplace was started as a side-project, the two biggest barriers to entry for the business was gaining trust, both from small businesses and the local community. Though they had done that over the year, it wouldn’t be easy to start in new communities without some additional support.
They knew that Chambers of Commerce were already working with and supporting small local businesses, and that chambers also had strong support from their local communities. Most chamber of commerce websites contain a directory listing of all their member businesses, however, the listings do not provide much online benefit to the small businesses or customers searching for their products/services. Cherie and Robert knew that they could provide benefit to a chamber, by helping to enhance their member businesses online, and create a shopping experience for their local community.
Online customers need more than just a small paragraph, phone number, and maybe a website or social media link to decide to work with a business. They need to see, experience, and understand what a business does as quickly as possible before they lose interest. Customers are used to, and love shopping on marketplace websites because they can quickly learn about and shop from many businesses all on one website.
They created a brand new platform, shopwhereilive.com, focused on partnering with chambers of commerce to help small businesses sell together online. They debuted the platform in July of 2018 at the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) annual convention.
Robert and Cherie incorporated their company as Member Marketplace, Inc., and are now helping many businesses in communities all over sell their handmade items, retail products, services, events, and more, online together.
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