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Where Shop Iowa Started

March 1, 2021
Where Shop Iowa Started

2020 took a toll on Iowa businesses. As retail stores in Iowa were forced to close their shops due to the rising pandemic, Executive Director Debi Durham of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) considered ways to support Iowa's retailers when their physical doors were shut. The concept of a one-stop online marketplace to shop from Iowa's retailers was born as a way to help them stay open, albeit virtually. Member Marketplace, Inc. based out of Marion, Iowa, was uniquely positioned to help in such a case. Since 2018, this company has been creating marketplace websites in partnership with local community partners to help its small businesses sell online and the community to shop local. Their platform, Shop Where I Live, was already being used in several communities throughout Iowa. IEDA conducted a nationwide RFP process for the statewide solution, and their company was selected to build and manage the statewide marketplace, now called Shop Iowa. They started building the site on June 1, with the first site preview ready only two weeks later, soft onboarding of Shop Where I Live businesses in that next week and live for new business registrations on July 1. The first sale happened at the end of July while businesses were still getting registered and adding products, and the site was officially released to the public via press release on August 3 with statements from Durham and Governor Kim Reynolds. One week later, the Derecho hit Iowa. The impact of the Derecho was unexpected for everyone. Not only did it destroy buildings, homes and businesses, it also knocked power out for almost two weeks in several areas. When the power came back on and life eventually started to return to "normal" (for 2020 anyways), Shop Iowa emerged as another way that local customers could support Iowa businesses, no matter if they could enter the buildings.

How it's going

However, from the pandemic and the Derecho, there are positives that have impacted the "shop local" movement. Consumers care, now more than ever, about local small businesses and realize that where they spend their money actually counts. On the other hand, many small businesses finally realize they can no longer simply rely on walk-ins and promotional events to sustain. Many small businesses sold online for the first time in 2020, allowing customers to shop from them easier than ever before. Numerous businesses have expressed their gratitude for the site, for the support in helping them sell online and for providing this as a free resource to their business during the hardest year of their business. Customers are shopping on the site. During the holiday season especially, orders rolled in from out of state, using the site as a way to send gifts to friends and family in Iowa. Many Iowans proudly shipped Iowa goods out of state to loved ones across the U.S. and moreover. Orders from both in and out of state people discovered Iowa’s local products and had them shipped directly. Creating commerce online for Iowa businesses is good business. The Iowa Downtown Resource Center is proud of the partnership we have created between the IEDA and an Iowa-based business, Member Marketplace, Inc., and proud of the fact that Iowa was the first state to provide such a marketplace for its businesses.

What's Next

Member Marketplace, Inc. is working on some of these items to further expand or enhance the SHOP IOWA platform, businesses and user experience.

  • Expansion into all 99 counties.
  • Expansion to include restaurants/bars and service providers gift cards.
  • Further expansion of handmade in Iowa vendors.
  • Customer incentives like first-time buyer coupons and bonus gift cards on higher orders values.
  • Refined shopping layout with easier to navigate category shopping.
  • New integrations with other website platforms (exploring Square, Wix, Etsy, etc.).

Shop Iowa Stats

  • 89 Counties
  • 169 Cities
  • 407 Vendors
  • 1,264 Items sold through the marketplace
  • $28K + Sales
  • 1,700+ Email Subscribers
  • 5,630 Facebook Followers
  • 64K+ Unique Visits
  • 273K+ Pageviews

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