MILTON — Keeping small businesses and their communities afloat was among the objectives of a local entrepreneur who recently started a website to help out.

Coleby Kauffman, owner of Tastecraft in Milton and Black Dog Jewelers in Lewisburg set up www.shopsmol.com. He said the site lets customers shop online while supporting businesses in Milton, Lewisburg, Mifflinburg, Danville, Selinsgrove and Sunbury.

“Businesses that are signed up are categorized by which town they reside in,” Kauffman said. “If you are a customer looking to support businesses in let’s say, Milton or Lewisburg, you can click on that specific town and see which businesses are signed up in those towns.”

Kauffman said businesses may sign up at no charge and are automatically added to the site’s directory of towns.

“Once you sign up it is completely free to sign up and free to sell gift certificates,” Kauffman said. “I wanted to try to keep the costs low to sell products and services.”

Kauffman said the pricing structure for physical or digital products, a 3% fee in addition to a credit card processing fee, was far less than any other e-commerce platform.

The site was functional, Kauffman said, but still may be tweaked a bit. So far, member businesses reported success during the end of 2020.

Nonprofits were also encouraged to sign up, Kauffman said, and may sell products at no charge. Current nonprofits included the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority (BVRA), The Campus Theatre, the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP) and The Scratching Post Cat Cafe.

“We have several nonprofits that have used the platform already to host fundraiser auctions,” Kauffman said. “One of the things that the platform offers is ability for a business to create an auction item. Kind of like eBay, they put an item up and set the parameters for starting bid, bidding increments, timeframe for how long people can bid. Once the timeframe is over the winner pays for it like a normal product.”

Kauffman observed nonprofits have taken financial hits in the 11 months since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Among them, nonprofits which depended on the Mifflinburg Christkindl for revenue raising.

“I am hoping that businesses will use the platform more frequently in 2021,” Kauffman said. “I am putting together a whole packet of information about how businesses in the holiday quarter used the platform to generate sales.”

Kauffman, also chair of the LDP business forum committee, said the idea sprang from the early days of the pandemic, when customers were not allowed in many retail stores. He also designed the site in anticipation of a return spike of COVID-19 in the last quarter.

“One of the features that I wanted to add was the ability for businesses to sell products on their page on shopsmol.com, but have customers schedule pickup times,” he said. “They can buy online and then pick up in-store. That way, it still gets people to the store if stores are allowing customers in, or arrange for curbside pickup.”

Businesses may also schedule reservation time slots for customers. Kauffman anticipated shopsmol.com services would still be crucial for small businesses well into 2021 and perhaps beyond.

Kauffman said shopsmol.com would host a virtual zoom conference at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26 to discuss results from 2020, demonstrate setting up an account and answer questions. Registration for the Zoom conference was available through shopsmol.com/conference or via Facebook.

Staff writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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