BY JENNY STARKEY
Goodbye 2020 and hello 2021! While the countdown to get here seemed to be endless, we all made it, and there’s much to be thankful for. During this time of growth, change and new beginnings, what better way to enter into the new year than with a few new goals?
One of the biggest things affected in 2020 by the pandemic were our communities. Shuttered windows, retail shops without any customers and empty sidewalks plagued almost every Denver neighborhood. But there’s a way to change that, by shopping local – even when shopping online. Shop Sidewalk, Inc. (Sidewalk) is aiming to change consumer behavior this year, starting with keeping online and in-store purchases local.
A Denver-based female-run startup founded in June 2020, Sidewalk is currently developing an e-commerce platform dedicated entirely to independent small brick and mortar retail businesses. The platform is designed to help local customers find and buy products in close proximity to their neighborhoods. Think of it like an Amazon, but local – or Doordash for retail.
It all started in search of a foam roller and a bike helmet in the wake of the first COVID-19 citywide shutdown in Denver, CO. Despite the power of major online marketplaces, founder and CEO Lizzy Lee was told it would take weeks to receive her online purchases due to the pandemic. In need of something much faster, she wondered how on earth she could ever find out if a local business in her Denver community carried what she needed. Lizzy dreamed of an online marketplace that helped her get to know local businesses and their products in her area.
Three days later, when her neighbor commented he was in need of a bike helmet and would just buy it on Amazon, Lizzy insisted they visit the local bike store around the corner that had just opened and were in desperate need of local support. Out of real necessity and the desire to support the local community during a time of need, Sidewalk was born.
“With more customers looking for safe ways to shop this year due to the pandemic, it is critical to make sure that our local retailers are able to access customers online and have a platform to compete with other online options,” said Lizzy Lee, CEO and founder of Sidewalk. “Sidewalk’s platform gets local businesses online, helps customers find and buy local, all while strengthening our community and local economy.”
Sidewalk’s unique use of geolocation allows users to search for products and find them in or close to their neighborhood. “Sidewalk brings the focus back to local businesses and keeps customers’ dollars in our communities,” said Lee. “Now anyone can find that special gift, unique clothing design or coveted locally-made art piece right around the corner and keep our dollars local.”
Sidewalk aims for residents to know the small business owner across the street by name. The company wants local retailers to share in a community’s joys, celebrations and even sorrows. Sidewalk brings authenticity and personal connection back to Denver communities by connecting customers with the local businesses that serve their neighborhoods. And with nearly 48% of businesses with 1-4 employees experiencing a significant or severe impact [due to the coronavirus pandemic], the time for keeping purchases local is now.
This year, while you’re setting your new year’s resolutions and goals, think about the impacts you can have in your community by keeping your dollars local. 71% of small business owners say support from their local community has been critical to their recovery efforts, and with over half of the Colorado workforce employed by small businesses, the impact is far reaching. Your dollars are not just purchasing your favorite locally made household items, they’re also helping families provide educational opportunities for their children, put food on the table or keep a family safe in their home.
In just one month since launching its platform, Sidewalk currently hosts 20 stores and over 300 products. Over the next few months, Sidewalk will work to rapidly expand to all neighborhoods in Denver and in neighboring cities.
“Regardless of the pandemic, consumer purchasing habits will continue to shift and while there is a surge of compassion for local retailers right now, small businesses continue to be left behind if they do not have access to resources that help get them online,” said Lizzy Lee. “That is what we’re here to help with, we’re not replacing brick and mortar business, we’re augmenting them and creating more opportunities for our local retailers to reach more customers.”
How can you make an impact?
2021 promises to be a great year and small businesses, despite a rough 2020, are still enthusiastic about recovery.
Change your habits with small steps.
Instead of automatically going to Amazon or other big box retailers that are online, check out your local retailer or Sidewalk first. Not seeing what you need? Check Google for a list of local stores in your area that might have the product.
You can make an impact in your local community, and 2021 is a great time to start!
Visit www.shopsidewalk.com to browse products and stores in your neighborhood. Don’t see a local business that you know would be a good fit? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can reach out.
Caption Page 15 – “Giving Beauty Co is a holistic skincare boutique located in Five Points/RiNo – established in 2019, owner Skye Martin focuses on natural and organic solutions to address the toughest skin problems. You can find Skye’s products on Sidewalk now. Photo credit: Laura Orozco Photography”