A Collingwood entrepreneur is using his business mind and tech skills to offer some common ground for retailers and restaurants who have had to close their doors but still want to reach customers.
Brandon Houston, a local entrepreneur, the president of Collingwood Foundry, and CEO of Switch Video, has built an online marketplace called Collingwood Commons, to offer e-commerce options for Collingwood businesses.
His creation means any retailer and restaurant in Collingwood that doesn’t already have an online store and payment system can have one for free by simply signing up to join Collingwood Commons.
“I wanted to do something to help support the local retailers and restaurants who are the hardest hit by this,” said Houston, who previously ran a web development agency before coming to Collingwood. “I thought, why not put some of my past experience to use and see if I can come up with a creative way to help support the businesses.”
The result is Collingwood Commons, which includes a restaurant take out option and an online retail option.
Those businesses that didn’t already have online ordering set up, can now have that service with very little time spent building it - they simply set up a profile.
“I thought this was a good way to create a central marketplace for the town … it would act as a way locals can buy from businesses in one easy process,” said Houston.
Retailers can sign up, build a profile, and add products to sell from the Commons. They don’t have to do anything else to have an online store.
“It’s definitely a helpful way to get them into the online ordering market,” said Houston.
Area businesses who were already set up for online ordering and payment can still join Collingwood Commons by building a profile that links to their own online store.
The only fee associated with the online marketplace is the one charged by the online payment processing company. Houston isn’t making any money from it and he isn’t charging for membership.
“I was just looking for a way to help … I didn’t feel the need to make anything off it,” said Houston. “My business is still operational. The Switch Video team is still working remotely, so I had time dedicate to this … and I recognize that in the current situation a lot of businesses can’t really afford to look at marketing themselves in other avenues.”
As a local business owner and entrepreneur, Houston has established a co-working space (Collingwood Foundry) and has participated in private-public ventures such as the move to create a business accelerator in Collingwood.
“For over a decade I’ve worked with a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs from mentorship to support to strategy … I’ve been involved in the entrepreneurial eco-system for a long time,” said Houston. “A lot of things I’ve done over the last decade is to support entrepreneurs so this is really an extension of that value of mine.”
Not only will the website be a tool for businesses, locals can also use it to do online shopping and place takeout orders with Collingwood businesses.
The site currently includes 11 restaurants and 24 retailers, but Houston said it’s been growing quickly as more businesses sign on with profiles and products.
He introduced the site to some local business owners through a webinar last week.
To shop or join Collingwood Commons, visit the website and follow the links.