Thriving Locally is an online marketplace that acts as a hub for products and services from locally owned small businesses.
“We are many businesses under one shopping cart,” explains Craig Hanson, who launched the Nanaimo website in September 2014.
By that time, the idea was already four years old.
Creating the Amazon of local small businesses
Hanson knew people prefer to support local establishments than big box stores, but small businesses often don’t have easy to find websites, and when they do, they have limited options for online shopping.
Thriving Locally coordinates both the online shopping and product delivery service.
It’s a simple idea – make shopping locally as easy as visiting Amazon – but requires a lot of work to implement.
A year before launching, Hanson formed a business partnership to help get his company off the ground.
“Initially, I was scared to share the idea,” admits Hanson.
That’s one of the challenges he had to overcome as an entrepreneur.
“I was scared that it might get taken away, or that if you do share it, you have to also share in the profits and successes.”
But owning 25% of something great is better than owning 100% of nothing, he said.
He knew Thriving Locally was a bigger beast than he could handle alone.
Bringing together a team of likeminded people also had the advantage of creating a support network, something Hanson thinks is integral for entrepreneurs.
“The majority of people you talk to are going to tell you every reason under the sun why your idea isn’t a good one, why it isn’t going to work,” said Hanson.
“If you believe that, then you’re going to stop.”
He joined a group called Ignite Nanaimo, a support network for entrepreneurs.
“You need to align yourself with likeminded people,” said Hanson. “You will become a product of your environment.”
That idea is stated on his business card: “Whatever you focus on the most becomes the bigger.”
“The entrepreneurial spirit is a pretty unique thing in my experience,” says Hanson.
“Being part of an entrepreneurial group, you’re with people who want to help you no matter what.”
Thriving Locally started in Nanaimo but Hanson has a vision for it in communities across the country.
The business hasn’t taken off as fast as he hoped. Hanson calls it his second fulltime job, with his first still in a university.
“We have all the right ingredients,” said Hanson.
Reaching that consumer-conscious base is his goal right now. Penetrating a market often takes repetition of the brand name before people start seeking it out.
“It’s about consistently getting in front of people and getting them engaged.”
Hanson, who once ran a snowcone vending unit and has done freelance drafting, said his biggest piece of advice for would-be entrepreneurs is not to see failure as a roadblock.
“It’s more of a launching pad,” he said. “It’s one step closer to success.”
For more on this unique online business, check out Thriving Locally at www.thrivinglocally.com.