Iowa’s rural economy benefits when a specialty product goes to market, instead of staying home. That’s the goal of Buy Iowa Online, a fully automated e-commerce Web site that brings together products from entrepreneurs in southwest Iowa. Soon to be up and running, the new Web site offers Iowa-made products from more than 30 local crafters, artisans and manufacturers, said Lynn Adams, an ISU Extension community economic development specialist.
The Rural Development Resource Center (RDRC) is launching this new project to provide a no-risk sales and advertising tool to support the region’s rural entrepreneurs, Adams said. ISU Extension is a partner in the RDRC, along with Grow Iowa Foundation, Southwest Iowa Coalition and the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development.
Rural entrepreneurs invigorate their local economies as they broaden their sales markets, Adams continued. Most of the entrepreneurs need product-to-market assistance; most can’t afford the advertising on their own. They can use this Web site to go beyond their storefront or basement — or wherever their business is based. Buy Iowa Online increases the “virtual” foot traffic to these small businesses.
What might shoppers start finding on Buy Iowa Online as sellers are being added? Everything from one-of-a-kind works of art to bird houses, purses, pottery, stained glass, furniture, baskets, dolls, books, photography prints and jewelry for both people and pets. In addition, the site will feature a variety of nonperishable food products, which may include jellies, jams, spice mixes, honey and soy products, and even beef jerky.
“You’ll also find community-themed items from nonprofit organizations like museums and chambers of commerce, as well as gift certificates from local restaurants and bed and breakfasts,” Adams said.
Buy Iowa Online is looking for a special type of customer, she continued. “We are targeting investors right now, the customer who wants to participate in a project that creates sustainability for the state of Iowa.”
With Buy Iowa Online, rural entrepreneurs can invest more in their local economy as well, Adams said. If one local entrepreneur can keep his or her storefront open, maybe three or four more will open.