Local businesses do the Digital Pandemic Pivot – with unexpectedly good results

Local businesses do the Digital Pandemic Pivot – with unexpectedly good results 

By Michele Fisher

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Jessica Medeiros had lofty goals for 2020. ABA Instructor Therapist by day, entrepreneur by night, she had hatched Dufferin County’s Shop With Purpose market in early 2019. Here local vendors sold their hand-crafted wares at seasonal events, with 10% of fees going back to the community. By the end of the year, Jessica had donated more than $2,000 to local charities. 

This year, she planned to double that amount. And then it all went sideways.

By April 4, the date of Shop With Purpose’s first market at Monora Park, Premier Doug Ford had declared a provincial state of emergency. All non-essential businesses had been closed down due to COVID-19 just two weeks earlier.

When life served up the pandemic, Jessica chose to belly up to the table with her knife and fork. 

“I was already talking to (Dufferin Media) about getting a website, finding new ways that people could reach me,” she said. In very short order, they moved the whole operation online. “I didn’t charge any of the vendors for that market. I said, ‘Just be my guinea pigs!’”

The vendors responded in kind, donating gift cards for first responders and essential workers. The April Virtual Market was featured on Shop With Purpose’s new website, which allowed customers to choose between product categories and buy directly from each vendor. A big social media push announced the change and drove traffic to the site.

No borders, no boundaries

The result has been more than Jessica could have imagined. “Before we only did the market in town. It was local people who came out to support us. Now we have vendors all the way to Vancouver and customers from all over the country,” she said.

Rather than in-person markets four times a year, Shop With Purpose now runs monthly markets. Instead of a one-time Christmas event, they launched weekly virtual markets for every weekend in November. 

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