The economic benefits of shopping local and supporting businesses in the place one lives are widely known. In this week's Feature story, we outline how some Central Oregon business owners are using Instagram and other social media platforms to sell and promote not just their own products, but those of other local businesses, too. Instagram can be a place to find a random assortment of gift options—though if your feed is like many people's, it's a mix of local and non-local accounts.
So what do you do if you want to browse only locally made and produced gifts? Wouldn't it be great if there was a place to check out an array of products and options, all in one place? That was the problem Sara and Jak Green of Bend set out to solve. Sara Green's creative firm initially launched a platform called Support-Local for the community in and around Ballard, Washington, offering a place for people to browse items from local businesses from one centralized online marketplace. Since the couple lives in Central Oregon, it was only natural for them to launch a version for the local community, called the Bend Marketplace.
"Our goal is simply connecting local merchants with local customers in a way that is fun and effective, so less dollars will be spent on Amazon," Jak Green told the Source. "We quickly realized that this Support-Local platform could benefit communities around the country. We dug in, did some outreach and now there are 10 marketplaces up and running, a handful in development and conversations happening with numerous communities."
Bend's Support-Local marketplace is populated with everything from local jewelry, art and clothing to outdoor products such as wake surf and river boards, as well as recreation options and classes. In a sea of online options, the site helps the locally focused shopper find lots of items without having to hop around to various sites. Thus far, dozens of Central Oregon businesses have signed on—42 as of this writing, to be exact.
With COVID-19 cases rising over the month of November in Oregon, and more restrictions on Oregon businesses currently in place, the platform provides yet another way to get the word out during what is usually a bustling holiday shopping season.
“One of the cool things about this is, whether somebody’s got a really robust website where they’re selling tons of stuff, or somebody has no digital presence at all, the Support-Local platform levels that playing field.”—Jak Greentweet this
"With the new restrictions... we're definitely seeing more businesses sign up each day," Jak Green said. "But people are also realizing, this could happen again—even if we get a vaccine and things go back to normal, another pandemic could hit down the road. You just never know, and so the more people can have a digital presence for their local community to shop, the better."
Local businesses we talked to for this Shop Local issue told us that maintaining an online marketplace—or even getting one going, as the pandemic continues to stymie in-person shopping—has been a big challenge this year. Jak Green said that's another way Support-Local platform can assist.
"One of the cool things about this is, whether somebody's got a really robust website where they're selling tons of stuff, or somebody has no digital presence at all, the Support-Local platform levels that playing field, because everybody can post up to 10 of their products—they can cherry pick key products that tell the story of what their business is, and it allows somebody that has no web presence to be right there next to somebody that has a ton of web strength."
Future plans for the platform include moving to one-click shopping, he said. Right now, the platform allows customers to buy products from the various retailers—but the customer has to start a new transaction for each business they buy from.
The Bend version is available at bendmarketplace.com. Those looking to add a listing can look at the bottom of the site for a link to reach out.