When building a ship in the air, sometimes you have to call in the dream team.
Enter Ryder Richards and Tahnee Eliot —the brother and sister duo who helped several of our Virtual Woodlawn Street Market vendors go from selling things at the traditional market to an online storefront that will take them from COVID-19 response and beyond.
Creating a virtual market space has long been a goal for the Woodlawn Street Market team. When in-person markets were postponed, the team redirected their energy from event prep to building out the virtual market concept.
Elliot and Richards reached out to REV with the idea of wanting to help small businesses bearing the brunt of closure due to the pandemic.
“We’ve just found since COVID-19 hit that a lot of people were put out of business or didn’t have a way of generating income, especially since the markets were shut down,” Eliot said. “We just thought it would be great to use our expertise to help other small businesses start online stores.”
And, as luck would have it, they were directed to five vendors who were at various points of their journey to an online store.
After talking to Woodlawn Street Market co-founder Bekah Fox and REV’s Director of Business Growth and Recruitment, Taylor Clark-Jacobson, they put their heads together —Eliot using her expertise as the owner of a Texas boutique and Richards’ technical experience—to build something affordable for vendors.
Eliot, who’s been in business for 20 years saw this as an opportunity to share some of the things she’s learned on the journey so far.
“I wanted to pay it forward,” she said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of stuff in my brain and at this point in my life, I’m ready to help other people kind of get a jump start on things, so that they don’t have to go through all of the growing pains that I had to go through.”
SHOP THE VIRTUAL WOODLAWN STREET MARKET
Click the “Shop Now” buttons below to be taken directly to each vendor’s e-commerce site. Each link will open in a new window so it’s easy to browse all of these awesome vendors!
Richards said the amount of need made him lending his tech skills a no-brainer.
“It’s not very difficult for me to work in that field,” he said. “And if that’s all it takes to keep some businesses going, a little time on the side, that feels like of kind of the least we can do. We can make sure the people who are trying and working really hard can get to that next level and keep them going.”
For some shops, such as Sonequa Murray’s of Simply Sonequa Poundcakes, an online store had been a long time coming. She had been offering delivery in the Birmingham area and taking orders via Facebook.
“They have helped me with a website that was needed for as long as I’ve been in business,” she said. “It allows traffic from potential customers who are not on Facebook or Instagram to see what I offer and a place where they can order.”
The new stores allow the vendors to direct traffic from social media to their own web pages. All items are listed on one page and customers can select shipping options. Customers can also see a little more about each business and their owners via an ‘About’ page.
Others say their new online stores will help them as they start to expand their business.
“The improved e-commerce platform has brought about freedom of control- in design and in controlling the inventory,” said Aaliyah Taylor of Exalted in Beauty. “I hope this e-commerce platform will allow me to grow more as just a jewelry designer, but to be able to expand my business from jewelry to jewelry and handmade clothing.”
Both Eliot and Richards say teamwork made the process easier.
The feeling is mutual—Youit Jones of Holy’istic Health & Wellness, who is a first-time vendor, said even though he wasn’t able to vend in person, he still feels like he’s a part of something special.
“The team at 412 was an immense part of my success and achievement, considering many of the issues we encountered along the way were far above my expertise to solve,” he said. “Their dedication and tenacity are some of their biggest assets, and one of the biggest benefits to a burgeoning business owner like myself. Their skillset and acumen are of priceless value, and I cannot express my gratitude and appreciation enough for them. Not only do they engage their clients professionally, but also like a friend, and I feel honored to have been afforded their assistance in this endeavor.”
Magic City Match is a program that transforms lives and opens doors for Black entrepreneurs and business owners. Led by REV Birmingham and powered by Prosper, this initiative aims to create opportunities for Black-owned businesses by matching them with brick-and-mortar spaces where they can thrive. After a successful pilot program in 2022, Magic City Match is back in action and ready to empower a new wave of entrepreneurs.
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