Original Source, Cedar Rapids Gazette February 17, 2019
By Deborah Neyens, correspondent, Cedar Rapids Gazette
As a seasoned small business owner, Cherie Edilson appreciates the value that mom-and-pop shops add to a community.
“Aside from just providing shopping opportunities, small businesses and local shops keep economies thriving by investing more dollars back into their communities,” Edilson said.
“They create more jobs. They contribute more to local charities.”
Shop Where I Live, an online e-commerce platform created by Edilson and her husband, Rob, offers a way for communities to support the small local businesses.
“It’s a one-stop shop making it easier to find local businesses and buy from them,” Cherie Edilson said. “You can discover what a new business makes or what special services it has.”
Edilson started her first small business, the Pink Barrette, in 2012, making hair bows for girls and selling them at online and at craft fairs and farmers markets.
A disappointing holiday craft fair, with a sparse crowd due to a snowstorm and competing events in the area, underscored to Edilson how important it is for a small business to have a diversified selling portfolio.
But many vendors she knew had all their eggs in the craft fair basket, leaving them vulnerable when a fair is poorly attended.
In January 2017, the Edilsons launched Cedar Rapids Marketplace, an online craft fair of sorts that made it easier for Cedar Rapids-based makers to find an online market for their goods.
After finding success, the Edilsons joined Iowa Startup Accelerator this past spring.
“We figured out how to take what was working and fix what wasn’t, and grow the platform to take it to other markets,” Cherie said.
The result of their efforts is the newly renamed business, Shop Where I Live, and an expanded focus.
“The platform can serve all kinds of businesses, including retail stores and service-based businesses, not just the craft-type businesses we started with,” she said.
With the revamped platform, service providers such as web developers and photographers experience the same e-commerce functionality as the original marketplace, with options for listing their services and providing examples of their work.
Instead of a shopping cart, they can opt for a “send inquiry” button to promote lead generation.
To support the platform’s expansion into new communities, the business partners with local chamber organizations, which receive a fully managed website and member discounts.
Shop Where I Live currently operates sites for Cedar Rapids, in partnership with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, and Marion, in partnership with the Marion Chamber, along with two sites for communities in Nebraska.
The company’s five-year plan calls for expansion into 120 different communities, supporting 20,000 businesses in those communities, and growing its staff from three to 35.
While Edilson now has retired her original hair bow business, she said it served a valuable purpose.
“In the beginning, I was just creating what was fun for me,” she said. “But I got so much from it that I learned about business — how to give customers what they want, how to sell different types of products and how to make a profit.”