Just before Portland began staying home en mass to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, I just happened to adopt a beautiful Spinone puppy named Medici. Puppies need socialization to the outside world, exercise, and of course, house training. This put Medici and me in the front row as things got weird. Over the last three weeks, we’ve watched as business after business on North Mississippi Ave closed their doors. More handwritten notes appeared taped to shop doors, most had a variation of a chilling statement that has become all too familiar:
Closed for the foreseeable future due to Coronavirus.
Without exception, the signs included a message of encouragement or thanks. Occasionally, they would include a Facebook page URL or phone number where patrons could reach out to buy products. Rarely did I see a way for customers to shop online. Apart from other dog owners and delivery drivers, these signs went unseen by the folks they were supposed to reach as Oregon has worked hard to successfully flatten the curve. I am so proud of my fellow Oregonians for keeping each other safe and healthy. Now it’s time to do more.
We are dealing with two calamities in one. Our collective focus so far, and rightfully so, has been to do whatever we must to protect the health of our communities. But in addition to this, the economic cost has been catastrophic. Each local shop that is shuttered feels like a part of Portland that we may lose forever. With confusion around government rescue packages and mounting unemployment, I turned to my coworkers at Matter Supply to see what we could do.
Most days at Matter Supply we make the internet (read: bespoke websites, apps, and digital experiences) for brands like Nike and Impossible Foods as well as mission-driven organizations like United We Dream and Raheem. Our team is passionate about working with folks that are trying to make a difference, and it shows.
When we heard the news of the hard times over at Powell’s Books, our hearts dropped. The lost revenue from the stay-at-home measures had led to 400 of their employees losing their jobs. Our team got to work. A day and a half later, we published a Chrome extension that automatically checks to see if a book on Amazon is also available online at Powell’s.
We weren’t the only ones thinking of the folks at Powell’s. An outpouring of support and online orders from around the country led to them rehiring over 100 employees to keep up with the new demand.
When we started talking about how to help more small and independent businesses affected by the spread of the Coronavirus, we wondered how we make an impact for them just as quickly. Out of that conversation, grew the idea for local goes global.
The mission of local goes global is to help small brick and mortar only retailers to get online fast to save their businesses and the jobs of the people who depend on them. The first project of local goes global is 20 in 20: Portland. We have the goal of building 20 stand-alone eCommerce sites for 20 Portland small businesses in 20(ish) days to help them get their business back up and running.
Here at Matter Supply, we have a lot of experience designing and building blazing fast and beautiful eCommerce experiences using Shopify’s API and the JAMstack. We’ve also done several projects that required deep customization of Shopify template-based experiences. These projects are typically complex, can take many people several weeks to design and build, not to mention cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. That big brand approach isn’t going to work for these small main street businesses that need our help now.
So as a team, we got to work figuring out how we could launch an eCommerce site in just a day or two for only $500 while also keeping the ongoing costs for the businesses as low as possible.
After a few days of investigation and planning, here’s an overview of what the 20 in 20: Portland project includes.
(Note: We’ll refer to small business owners just as owners here for brevity)
- Selection of a Shopify template
- Secure a URL
- Define branding, color, and fonts
- Guide owners as they get their product inventory together
- Guide owners in taking great product photos and writing descriptions
- Set up shipping and delivery
- Connect payment gateways
- Set up Google Analytics
- Connect owner email lists and outbound marketing tools
- Launch, announce, and give virtual high fives
- Conduct a live online training session with the owner after launch
Estimated ongoing costs
Optional costs marked with a *
Online storefront: Basic Shopify — $29 per month
Domain: most .com’s — $12 per year
Email: Gsuite business — $5 per month per email address
Analytics: Google Analytics — free
Email marketing: Mailchimp — free
Shipping*: Shippo — free to install, 5 cents per shipping label
We’ll be posting guides and links to resources as local goes global grows and 20 in 20: Portland gets rolling. Be sure to subscribe to our Medium publication to get alerts when they drop.
It may feel like there are more than one or two days of work in that list for a store with a large inventory. That said, once a business has everything they need to launch, we can move fast. The most important thing right now is for businesses to get cashflow restarted quickly.
Make no mistake, it is a massive effort to gather up all your products, take product photos of everything, and write product descriptions for each one. Don’t worry, though. Online stores don’t have to launch with the full inventory of products in the brick and mortar location. Business owners should pick a selection of their most popular products, especially the ones customers run out frequently, and launch quickly. Products can be added over time with just a couple of clicks.
As we put together this plan, we had to acknowledge that our ability to help small businesses is minuscule when compared with the number of folks that need help right now. So we’ll be publishing all of our guides and materials used along the way.
We also want to acknowledge that some businesses are not able to justify spending $500 plus the ongoing costs right now. While a business that is selected for 20 in 20: Portland will be responsible for the costs related to the platforms used to build their site, the $500 fee will be used to expand the local goes global experience and to offset technology and other ancillary costs in the delivery of 20 in 20 and local goes global work by Matter Supply.
Our ultimate goal is for local goes global to help small businesses grow. We hope to see localgoesglobal.com become a place where we can promote local businesses that don’t have an online presence and to help them sell their products online until they can start online stores of their own. With some luck, there will be future rounds of 20 in 20. This is our way as a small business to help our fellow small business owners protect what they built, to get back on their feet, and to get their people back to work.
Hopefully, in the next weeks or months, as things get better, we’ll see those makeshift signs come down from shop windows and doors will begin to open once more. While we’re out walking, Medici and I will come to say hello and make a purchase. Getting through this is gonna take all of us together.
Stay safe out there and wash your hands.
If you’re someone that would like to join us in donating your time to small businesses at pro bono or at a significant discount as a part of the 20 in 20 projects, please shoot us an email at email@example.com