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Online Option Helps Save Small Iowa Business' Sales

Courtesy Paper Moon
Iowa Economic Development reached out to White to ask if she would like to sign up for a statewide, online marketplace. "And I thought, well, why not? It would be another avenue to do some sales," White said.

A statewide ecommerce marketplace has helped one small Iowa business stay afloat almost one year after it closed its doors due to the pandemic.

Louise White owns the Paper Moon book store in McGregor with her daughter. She first opened it more than 20 years ago. They started with antiques and later added books.

Almost exactly a year ago, the pandemic hit Iowa and they closed their doors, like many other businesses in the state. Since that decision, White said she tried to open a few times. But never for long.

She said her sales were down almost 60 percent, but then Iowa Economic Development Authority reached out to her about its statewide, online marketplace Shop Iowa. That, combined with their own small website, made up 25 percent of the lost profit.

“That 25 percent has been pretty important figure for us," White said. "None of us really enjoy doing a website. We're kind of people, people. And the technology has been huge.”

White said the Paper Moon will continue to use Shop Iowa as a tool even after the pandemic is over.

The bookstore owner said they make shipments across the state and the country thanks to online shopping. White recommended other small businesses use Shop Iowa’s online marketplace as a way to recover from loss of sales due to the pandemic.

“It's really kept us moving. And, you know, I want to keep everybody employed. That's my big, big goal and to have customers come back to the store," White said.

The Paper Moon started its own website apart from Shop Iowa when the pandemic forced it to close its doors. Cherie Edilson, the CEO and co-founder of Member Marketplace, Inc. oversees Shop Iowa. She said one third of the businesses using Shop Iowa are not like Paper Moon. They do not have their own website.

"And so this is a way for them to get online and selling online," Edilson said.

Edilson said more than 1300 items have been sold on the online platform. She said Paper Moon is an example of how a small business' website can further develop with the help of another online marketplace.

"I think this really goes to show that if you choose to adapt that you can maybe survive," Edilson said. "A lot of businesses have been able to adapt, whether through our platform or our platform in addition to their own website. And I think it's been great for the customers."

According to Edilson, by the end of 2020, Shop Iowa had brought in around $30,000 in tax revenue for the state. She said having multiple online shopping options for customers can help small businesses survive until doors can permanently open again.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines