Retail, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Online marketplace touts Great Lakes products

December 29, 2015
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Great Lakes Made
Great Lakes Made is a collective of small businesses in the region. Photo via

An online marketplace for small businesses in the Great Lakes region is up and running.

Products made throughout the Great Lakes can now be found in one location, a digital marketplace for entrepreneurs and creatives from the area. The Great Lakes Made site has 16 vendors and there are more than 30 registered since it was launched in Grandville just a few weeks ago, said Andrew Russo, co-founder.

“As a maker and designer myself, it is exciting to see this community grow right from the start. This online marketplace serves as a community to grow local business. The collaboration of brands in one space gives shoppers the opportunity to discover new products within their state/province and around the Great Lakes region,” said Russo, who’s also co-founder and CEO of Gone Beachin’ Apparel Co., a West Michigan-based beach apparel business.

“This idea has been forming in my mind for a couple of years after having many requests to add other brands’ products to the Gone Beachin’ shop. Many of these artists had great products to offer, but it didn’t fit our company guidelines to add them to the shop. As it stirred in my mind over the years, I wanted to figure out a way that we could collaborate and grow our businesses. After a lot of thought, it clicked that a marketplace would be the perfect fit to make this happen.”

The Great Lakes Made marketplace was developed as a virtual space for makers and designers to create their own stores in the same online shop, Russo said. The niche with this space is that it focuses only on the Great Lakes area, a region that consists of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the Canadian province of Ontario.

Each maker and designer is instructed to place a location icon at the bottom of each product description stating whether it was made or designed in a place in the Great Lakes region, he said.

“We are driving traffic from over 30,000 followers from our Gone Beachin' brand's social media to this online community so they can discover makers and designers in this region. This marketplace is set up to have free shipping so there is no confusion on shipping cost when the shopper reaches the checkout,” he said.

“The goal is to provide a seamless shopping experience for both the shopper and the merchant. The price that you see listed is the exact price you will pay for your items and you won't have to worry about paying multiple shipping costs like you may encounter with other marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon, etc. This online shop will also include events where you can find the merchants at and service providers. Service providers are makers that offer custom services for your business. They have the opportunity to list their service to increase their exposure to designers that need local manufacturers. We will also offer a Great Lakes Made Mix and Match subscription box. The goal is to ship the Winter Box in 2016. This box will include a variety of maker and designer products from the Great Lakes region.”

The website allows shoppers to pick from the categories of fashion, beauty, collectibles, food and beverages, hobbies and toys, cottage and home, media, outdoor, pets and electronics. It also allows users to shop by location, picking the state in which they’d like to spend their dollars.

“As we grow our partner relationships with businesses around the region, we will offer box subscriptions for each state and Ontario,” Russo said. “This will give makers and designers the opportunity to share their products with new customers to create brand awareness. These boxes will include small items, samples, and coupons for shoppers.”

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