Did you Know? The Thunder Bay area is home to more than 4,000 businesses, most of which are locally-owned and operated 'independent' businesses? Neither did we when we first started ShopThunderBay.com .
Not only did we not know how many businesses there were, we had no idea just how many products and services were available locally.
It turned out that pretty much anything we needed could be found in our own backyard with some 'digging', but it required more effort than most people were willing to spend to find out what was available.
At the same time, big box stores and online mega stores with more marketing power were capturing customers' purchases and drawing them in and away from the downtown core and local independent businesses.
How It Works
To reverse this trend, we built a local online marketplace and directory that features local businesses and the products and services they offer. The site is accessible from both computers and smart phones via a mobile version.
ShopThunderBay.com's community marketplace enables consumers to buy online for in-store pick-up or delivery, read and write business reviews, purchase online gift certificates, view restaurant menus, find out when businesses are open and how the can be paid, as well as contact business owners via email.
As you can imagine, all of these features offer both businesses and consumers tons of value, but the real power of ShopThunderBay.com is the offline community marketing campaign that involves hundreds of businesses displaying signs and stickers that remind locals to shop locally at ShopThunderBay.com.
By coming together under a common message that also drives people to a web destination where they can take action, ShopThunderBay.com harnesses the collective power of the local business community to give independents a voice that's even louder than the big corporate brands that dot the landscape.
Because local independent businesses generally keep more of the money spent with them within the community than corporate chains (45% for independent vs. 15% for chains), shopping with local businesses leads to a stronger local economy.
This benefits everyone in the community as strong local economies provide greater access to opportunities and also more funding for local initiatives like parks and recreation, services and infrastructure, health and education.
By informing local shoppers about the choices available to them, as well as the hidden benefits of shopping locally, ShopThunderBay.com aims to influence residents to spend more of their money locally instead of sending their dollars outside of the community where it will benefit someone else's area instead of our own.
About Darrin Nicholas, City Manager, ShopThunderBay.com
Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Darrin Nicholas is a passionate advocate for the City and the people that reside there.
Holding a degree in Business Administration from Lakehead University, Darrin immediately began his career as an entrepreneur in the general insurance industry first working for, and then eventually having an ownership stake in the small locally owned and operated business. He was able to experience first-hand not only the satisfaction, responsibility and pride that came being an independent business owner, but also the challenges in competing in an industry and economy that was fast evolving with new, global competitors knocking at the door.
It was this environment that eventually led to the decision by Darrin and his business partner to sell the brokerage to a national firm, and he spent the next 18 years in various roles working for corporate entities. “It was during this time in my career, that my enthusiasm for the City of Thunder Bay really emerged,” says Nicholas. “I’ve had several opportunities to relocate from Thunder Bay, which really would have opened up my career path, but I could never really envision raising my family anywhere other than here.”
Nicholas goes on: “I don’t think even now I can quite put my finger on the “why not?” but there’s always been something about Thunder Bay that ties me strongly to it, and I’ve never had a desire to be anywhere else – in fact, quite the opposite.”
Upon deciding to go full circle and return to his roots as an entrepreneur, Darrin had a few key criteria in evaluating opportunities. First and foremost, he wanted to be in a position where his work had a meaningful and positive effect on the community at large. “I’ve always found myself to be most gratified where I’ve been able to be a catalyst to the success of others,” said Nicholas. He also wanted total accountability for his own success, and an opportunity to earn a living being of service to the community of Thunder Bay.
“When I stumbled across the ShopCity.com platform, I was intrigued. It seemed to check off all the boxes when it came to what I was looking for. The more I learned, the more interested I became. When I finally reached out to them and learned that the Thunder Bay market was still available, I quickly determined that this was something that I wanted to spend my energy on, which brought me to where I am today!”
I truly look forward to championing the ‘shop local’ movement and providing a platform for local business to better connect with consumers online for the benefit of the entire community. Together, we will make a difference!
What You Can Do
There are several easy steps you can take to help us build up the community and support local businesses:
Use ShopThunderBay.com as often as possible to learn what's available locally.
Make informed purchases and consider the total impact of your spending, not just the price you pay.
Encourage great local business owners to keep going by posting reviews on their profile pages.
Buy our local gift certificates instead of plastic gift cards from big box stores.
Frequent locally-owned restaurants instead of the national chains.
We can always use more help spreading the word, and we greatly appreciate those who help convey the message by putting up signs and stickers or linking to us online.
Thanks for taking the time to read about ShopThunderBay.com. We are passionate about building up Thunder Bay and love to connect with like-minded individuals.
Feel free to use the comments below to let us know about things you're doing to spread the word about shopping locally or to make Thunder Bay a stronger, more vibrant community.