With some help from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, Wyoming merchants have an opportunity to grow their business through a new online platform specifically for Wyoming …
With some help from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, Wyoming merchants have an opportunity to grow their business through a new online platform specifically for Wyoming entrepreneurs.
Shop Wyoming is a project paid for with state CARES Act funding. As Audrey Jansen, project manager, explained, the COVID pandemic created more of a need for merchants to have an online presence.
“We know from our work with these businesses, it’s a lot harder to reach customers,” Jansen said.
The Shop Wyoming website features products from Wyoming businesses in one platform. Currently, it displays jewelry, crafts, home decor, art and gift cards, but as the site grows more categories will be added.
Shoppers can browse product categories, prices, make inquiries from sellers and rate the products they buy. Approved merchants are not charged for using the site.
For the moment, the Wyoming SBDC isn’t promoting the site heavily to shoppers, as they’re trying to get more Wyoming entrepreneurs on board with their products on display. That way, when they are driving traffic to the site, there’ll be a good amount of content to peruse.
“Before we promote it heavily, we want it to look more complete,” said Bruce Morse of Powell, regional director for the Wyoming SBDC.
So far, 25 Wyoming businesses are listed on the site. Some are still setting up to feature their products, and Jansen said she had about 20 applications that need to be reviewed.
The Wyoming SBDC is also providing technical assistance for those merchants using the site. Some Wyoming businesses owners have never moved beyond their brick and mortar store. Others have only a small online presence. They may have a website or use Facebook to promote their business, but they don’t utilize e-commerce.
Jansen said Shop Wyoming will help more merchants become more comfortable with the online environment.
“That shift online is really overwhelming, and it can be really expensive and time consuming, as well,” Jansen said.
Merchants approved for the site receive a video tutorial that takes them through all the steps to use the site.
A customer support team is also available by phone and email for technical questions, and they provide weekly webinars to walk people through the various parts of the site.
Morse said his office — located at PEP/ Powell Chamber/ Powell Visitor Center — has a light box and some basic camera equipment it can loan out for businesses to create the images they need to show their products on the site.
The goal of the project is not just to transition Wyoming businesses to the online platform, Jansen said.
“We’re trying to drive some traffic to their brick and mortar as well. So, this is just another outlet for them to get some exposure,” Jansen said.
In order to use the site, businesses have to be a confidential, no cost member of the Wyoming SBDC network. As more members sign on, Jansen said it could also help make businesses more aware of the services the Wyoming SBDC provides.
Morse said it’s primarily a product-driven site, so it’s not currently geared toward businesses providing services. However, the SBDC might look into that at some point in the future. He said there’s some items that can’t be sold on the site, such as firearms and alcohol.
Jansen added that the site can also help those who already have an online presence.
“You should be building your online presence everywhere possible,” Jansen explained. “The more places you’re selling online, the more likely you are to sell.”
Funding to support free use of the site runs until January of 2022. Jansen said the SBDC hopes to find another funding source to continue to allow the merchants to use the site for free beyond that date.
There is no obligation to use the site should the center need to start charging in the future, and merchants will be notified well in advance what the cost will be, should that happen.
Merchants and shoppers can visit the site at www.shopwyoming.com.