LocalPorch is an innovative website begun in Worcester. A melding of technology with the shop-local trend, it aims for a more meaningful and enjoyable way for people to purchase goods made nearby.
Makers of handcrafted items, meanwhile, would through the website have an easier time finding and connecting with local customers.
Set for a soft launch in September, the site is described by owner and founder Kim Sullivan as “Craigslist meets Etsy with the payment convenience of Uber.” LocalPorch claims to be the first of its kind. Its mission is to bridge the gap between online and in-person interaction, creating a better experience for both buyer and seller.
“LocalPorch is an online marketplace for handmade goods to connect consumers with their local makers in their community. We want to create a new shopping experience for consumers by boosting the local talents of makers,” said Sullivan.
She said the website wants “to give makers a platform to increase their sales without breaking the budget of a small business.” By eliminating the overhead of retail space and costs with an online presence, she said, “we project a successful platform allowing individuals to maximize their revenue and client base.”
“The best part of LocalPorch is the four channels of interaction between business and consumer: pickup, delivery, local stores and local events. Essentially, we want to enable consumers to find makers in their communities and add to the shop local economy.”
Sullivan, originally from California’s Bay Area, lives in Rutland and is an alumna of Boston College with a degree in management information sciences, which is the study of people, technology and organizations — the perfect blend for launching LocalPorch.
She worked more than 15 years in project and production management in various industries before a serendipitous seating arrangement seriously altered her career path.
“The idea for LocalPorch sparked on a flight,” Sullivan said. “I sat next to a woman traveling who discussed her working background, and it turned out that she was a maker. She made a business for herself reformatting and improving an existing product — the umbrella.
“While speaking with her it dawned on me that there was a market of makers looking to gain exposure for their products without opening a storefront.”
After that trip, she said, “I spoke with Suzi Capone, my current business partner, about this concept and after throwing around a few ideas about e-commerce, LocalPorch was born.”
Sullivan and Capone work with a team of nine, including curators and copywriters from Worcester and the area.
“There is no online marketplace like LocalPorch that bridges the disconnect between local consumers and local products. We focus on handmade goods and the business will be built on a filter of zip codes, allowing consumers through various communities to connect, interact and purchase from makers in their radius,” Sullivan said. “With our four channels of distribution [pickup, delivery, local stores and local events], we hope to incorporate locally owned — independent — shops looking to give their makers exposure for high-demand products.”
The shop-local movement puts consumers’ money into the slim pockets of their local businesses.
“Suzi and I — with our entire team in mind — do not want to limit makers by any means. We want to collaborate with local, independently owned shops and expose our makers to their stores in hopes that they will be able to sell more product through diverse outlets.”
There appears to be a vibrant synergy between Sullivan and Capone.
“We worked together at Backcountry.com several years ago and share a very similar style, both personally and professionally,” Sullivan said.
She has felt a similarly open connection to the city.
“Ever since I joined Worcester Clean Tech [Incubator] in March, the more I realize that Worcester is a great place to start LocalPorch. Worcester Clean Tech automatically put me in contact with Peter Dunn from the [city] Business and Economic Development office, and I work out of the Idea Lab when I can,” she said.
“Also, they put me in contact with Jessica [Walsh] from Worcester Wares. The community in Worcester have been great and welcoming to my idea,” Sullivan said. “There’s a momentum happening in Worcester and I think it’s a great time to start, especially for tech companies.
“It’s great to see this formation of entrepreneurs rising in Worcester, and we look forward to being a big part of it.”
This article was originally published in the June 12, 2016 edition of the Sun.
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