The Entrepreneurs Center Marketplace Connects Customers and Products Created by Local Businesses

How TEC is helping get Dayton-based startups in the game this holiday season

As e-commerce thrives and large companies like Amazon make it easier than ever to buy online, local shops and companies can often suffer. And in the midst of a pandemic that has people shopping less, those challenges have only increased as we head into the 2020 holiday season. To help solve that problem and connect shoppers with local goods, The Entrepreneurs Center in Dayton has created the TEC Marketplace, an e-commerce platform that features and sells products from TEC companies and those participating in TEC’s Small Business Development Center. Many available products are aimed at holiday shoppers and include active apparel, hats, bug spray, aromatherapy, decaf coffees and more.

“Our thinking revolves around COVID, of course,” said Kim Frazier, TEC’s director of growth initiatives. “We know that the brick-and-mortar retail industry is suffering and we can assume that retail shopping would be down for the holidays, too. We wanted to find a way we could collectively put everyone who has consumer products to sell during the holiday season in one place and market that place. We hope that shoppers in the region who want to support small businesses can go to the website and find products they might not be familiar with.”

TEC is working on the marketplace’s landing page, which will be found at when it launches later this month. Frazier said the site will allow shoppers to search by products, images, keywords, descriptions and more. The goal, she said, is to tap into people’s desire to shop local while also helping startups in their network reach those customers.

“Especially during the pandemic, people are seeing the impact on local businesses,” Frazier said. “Customers are seeing that you’re not able to go to your favorite restaurant and then it shuts down. So we think people are trying to support as many local businesses as they can to keep people employed and keep businesses in their neighborhood, which is good for everyone.”

Patty Vanderburgh, founder of athletic apparel company Rare Active, said the Marketplace is the perfect resource for companies like hers. She said the idea is just another in the long line of ways that TEC is redefining how to “shop local,” and believes the tight-knit Dayton community will support businesses like hers, especially when they can easily be found online.

“As an entrepreneur selling a consumer product, things have been extremely difficult this year due to COVID,” she said. “Sales opportunities that I normally attend like expos, sporting events, conferences and conventions have been cancelled, and I also sell my product through retailers who have taken a major hit this year. Due to these developments, I have placed a major push on sharing and selling my product online. So when the opportunity of being featured in the TEC Marketplace came along, I was thrilled to be able to participate.

If the Marketplace shows promise, Frazier and TEC leadership see the new platform as a way to continue connecting customers with Dayton products. By aggregating all of the local options in one place, TEC is looking to provide the convenience of sellers like Amazon while helping people support local.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to use this same type of website for other holidays and situations — Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day or anything, really,” she said “If there’s a good response, we might continue marketing it that way. We want entrepreneurs to come to us, so this is a way to attract them, but it’s also a way for the community to get engaged with our local entrepreneurs and businesses.”

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