In April, founder, owner, and operator of LocalShops1, Ester Venouziou, uploaded her brick and mortar to a complete online presence.
For the past three years, Venouziou had a quaint little shop located in the heart of Gulfport, inside the Village Courtyard, facing Beach Boulevard.
For safety reasons, due to the small size of her shop, Venouziou closed her doors prior to mandatory shutdowns in March.
“We thought we’d be down for a month and everything would go back to normal,” said Venouziou.
Little did she know she’d never open her doors again.
“The shop was just one component of all the services we provide,” said Venouziou. “We ran the shop component as a consignment for our artists.”
When first launching Marketplace on her website, localshops1.com, Venouziou started with 50 businesses – now she has 250 local businesses signed up to sell online.
Thanks to sponsorships, “until the end of the year, there is no cost for a local business to sell online at LocalShops1 Marketplace,” said Venouziou. “Even if they’re not a LocalShops1 member, as long as they’re local they can sell through us.”
Venouziou touts her support services for local businesses in the Marketplace.
”That’s what makes us different from Etsy and even Amazon Handmade,” she said.
Venouziou says the Marketplace was “something I had wanted for a long time but didn’t have the money or time. COVID took care of the time issue.”
After leaving the lease for her brick and mortar, Venouzou’s reduced overhead enabled her to create the online experience for local businesses she had always envisioned.
“Every dollar makes a difference,” said Venouziou. “Think of the local options before jumping online and purchasing from a larger retailer. There’s often a local option at a comparable price point and better quality.”
Launched in 2008, LocalShops1 bills itself as “Tampa Bay’s source for all things local. Our mission is to provide advocacy, support and education to locally owned, independent businesses throughout the region.”