Keeping it Local

Temple group connecting businesses and consumers amid COVID-19 crisis

Temple team
The Temple team at LocalMember.co already has connected more than 5,000 consumers with more than 400 businesses. | Image courtesy: LocalMember.co

It’s no secret the coronavirus and all of the resulting closures have taken a heavy toll on local small businesses. Temple University alumni and current students saw the crisis and then stepped in to help.

The goal of the project, called LocalMember.co, is to make it easier to support local businesses during their time of need. The group is aggregating all the ways people can support local businesses into one place (merchandise, gift cards, promotions, etc). Recently, it highlighted local black-owned products and services. 

Want to help? Visit LocalMember.co to find out more.

PW recently caught up to Ryan Oliveira and the rest of the team to talk about its efforts and how local businesses and consumers are responding.

Take us back to the beginning of this effort. Where did the idea come from? Why did Temple alumni and students decide to get involved and help local businesses?

The idea behind LocalMember.co started two weeks into the COVID-19 quarantine. We noticed local businesses were adapting to the COVID-19 restrictions and wanted to share the new ways to support them. It was exciting to see local businesses adapt by selling merchandise, discounted gift cards, and unique experiences. We found it overwhelming to determine what business was offering each service. Instead of baking banana bread during our quarantine, we built a website aggregating the local businesses information and made it easy to find.

“Simply put, we love local businesses and what they have to offer. We love the local restaurant offering an intimate and salivating experience, the boutique selling quirky gifts, or salons making you feel special everytime you leave. Local businesses are what make Philadelphia a truly unique city.”

– Ryan Oliviera, LocalMember.co

I’m best friends with fellow Temple University alumni, who are the first two people I contacted to make convert this idea to a reality. After adding 100 businesses to LocalMember.co, we realized how useful this website could be. I reached out to my contacts in the Management Information Systems Department in Fox Business School, requesting help from current students. We received an overwhelming response of students asking to join the team. Currently, 16 of our 18 team members are a mix of Temple University graduates and students (Class of 2013 – Class of 2023). The other two being my brother and girlfriend who have been a huge help in bringing this project to life.

Simply put, we love local businesses and what they have to offer. We love the local restaurant offering an intimate and salivating experience, the boutique selling quirky gifts, or salons making you feel special every time you leave. Local businesses are what make Philadelphia a truly unique city. We want to help keep them around, we have already seen businesses who have closed because of COVID. Our expertise is technology and marketing which is an area that some local businesses need help with, which is why we built LocalMember.co. This is especially important as society continues to become more digitized.

There’s a business element and a consumer element to the effort. Let’s start with businesses. Do you pick the businesses that appear on the site or can they self-nominate? Which businesses can participate? Is there a fee?

Our directory is free and the mission is to make it easier to support local. We are always adding businesses to our directory, but businesses can request to have their business page and highlights added via our website to expedite the process. Each business page hosts all the ways (with their links) you can support that business. We link to their e-commerce store, gift card options, donation pages or special offerings. 

Highlights are a way businesses can showcase what they have to offer. We highlight specific merchandise, (hats or mugs), promotions, (specialty cocktails, outdoor seating) or more. Every week we organize select highlights and businesses into specialized blog posts/guides helping make it easier for the consumer to discover and support local. 

To help local businesses in Philadelphia get back on their feet, a local startup fueled by Temple grads is offering assistance in marketing and technology as it’s expected that more commerce will flow digitally in the aftermath of COVID-19. | Image: Mike Petrucci

Now for the consumers. What do they find when they visit the website? In what ways can they help local businesses? 

The consumer finds all the ways they can support local businesses in one place. When using LocalMember.co, people can search by location, support method (gift cards, memberships), search for their business, or browse one of the specialized guides. Consumers make an impact by simply supporting local. 

The directory makes it easier to buy local – rather than going to the supermarket and supporting a national coffee brand, LocalMember.co users can easily shop from Philadelphia local coffee roasters in one place. The next stage of LocalMember.co is our “local membership,” where we provide weekly updates on local initiatives and push out surveys. Locals can sign up at https://www.localmember.co/member-2/.

You’ve been up and running for a little over a month now. Is it working? What’s been the response from both businesses and consumers? How many people/businesses are using the site?

We officially launched May 11! We have received great feedback and traction so far. We have connected over 5,000 locals, added 400-plus businesses to the directory and shared 600-plus highlights. LocalMember is making an immediate impact. We were recently featured in “TheSkimm,” which has elevated the awareness of our project, on a national level.

How do you see this playing out over the next few months? How long will the site be up and running and helping local businesses?

LocalMember.co is here to stay. In today’s environment with the impact of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to support your local businesses and community. The directory has proved to be a strong first step in helping support local. We plan on expanding the directories’ capabilities with the continued focus of making it easier to support local. For any passionate Philly locals out there, they can help us move LocalMember.co to the next stage by becoming a member.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.