Can a small Vancouver company do for local businesses what a certain “online bookstore” did for offshore manufacturing over 20 years ago? Probably not, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, many local stores and restaurants have struggled to get their products online, attract customers, or deal with the 20 to 30% commission fees charged by delivery services. Now, a free service called myLOCAL is hoping to change things.
Started by Dead Famous, a local advertising and digital agency based in Gastown, myLOCAL creates virtual shopping neighbourhoods and allows visitors to swipe through hundreds of individual storefronts — mimicking how they would typically shop offline.
“The idea came from simply walking my own neighbourhood in Mount Pleasant,” said Chris Kostyal, one of the founders of myLOCAL and co-owner of Dead Famous. “I thought that if we could create a free online marketplace for local businesses that felt like the neighbourhoods themselves, we could leverage the whole community and perhaps make buying local from home feel more like the real thing.”
Eight weeks later, myLOCAL is up and running on Main Street, Commercial Drive, Kitsilano’s West 4th Avenue, both Upper and Lower Lonsdale, plus four different shopping districts in New Westminster. The platform is built, individual storefronts have been entered, and businesses are now free to update their information and upload their products.
“If a business has an online store already, we can typically migrate the entire storefront in under five minutes,” said David Aitken, the digital lead on the project. “And if they don’t have an online store ready to go, they do now.”
While individual businesses work to get their online stores updated, visitors to myLOCAL-yvr.com can check their current status, visit their websites, and access any shopping or delivery options currently available.
“We’ve walked a lot of blocks and put over 1200 individual stores in the system already,” said Mike Fiorentino, co-owner of Dead Famous. “Now, we’re working with remote teams to create myLOCAL sites across Canada and the United States, along with local delivery solutions that people can actually afford.”
To see which neighbourhoods are open for business or coming soon, visit the myLOCAL homepage.