Warren partners with eBay to promote small businesses

WARREN — EBay is conducting a 12-month pilot program called Retail Revival in the cities of Warren and Akron focusing on bringing traditional brick-and-mortar companies online to introduce them to customers located around the world.

EBay will train and nurture selected companies for the world of buying and selling in e-commerce as a business model.

Retail Revival is a partnership between eBay and the two cities to harness the power of technology and eBay’s global marketplace. There will be 20 to 40 small- to medium-sized brick-and-mortar companies selected to participate in the training.

It was announced Friday by eBay CEO Devin Wenig, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Warren Mayor Doug Franklin.

“The health of our local economy will depend on the strength of our entrepreneurs and small, scaleable businesses,” Horrigan said. “We are thrilled to be the pilot community for this catalytic program, which will enable us to continue to invest in our neighborhood businesses by supporting our traditional retail businesses with new opportunities to thrive and expand through ecommerce.”

While Akron will be the lead city, Warren area businesses also will have opportunities to showcase and sell their wares on the internet.

“Warren and Akron are legacy cities that in spite of the stigma of the rust belt designation we’ve been living with in northeast Ohio, that’s a very old perception and that is not who we are now,” Franklin said. “EBay is giving us the opportunity to showcase our communities.”

Franklin said Warren’s selection to participate in the program is a win for the local businesses and the city.

“To be selected to partner with a $60 billion company is huge,” he said. “It is rebranding the story of our city.”

Selected businesses will receive exclusive support and resources to help them get started selling on the eBay platform, including a comprehensive training teaching them eBay basics and a dedicated global service support team. The training programs will be done on webinars, so those businesses not able to attend them during the live presentations will be able to see them at later times.

Chris Librie, senior director of global impact and giving at eBay, said a program similar to what is being introduced here was done in Germany several years ago.

“The program increased sales in those participating businesses by 90,000 euros annually,” Librie said.

EBay looked at several states and more than a dozen Ohio communities before deciding where to launch this pilot program, Librie said. Warren and Akron were selected because of the high use of eBay in Ohio and in their counties, as well as the potential impact that a successful campaign could have on these communities.

Melissa Holmes, Warren Redevelopment and Planning, said eBay representatives came to the city to spend a couple of hours within area businesses on Halloween and it was that visit that helped persuade the multibillion-dollar company to select Warren as one of the program’s sites.

There are 13 Warren companies that already signed up to be considered for the program. Applications will be taken through Feb. 9.

Rosalyn Hill, founder of 5 Grand Fashions, 164 High St. SE, Warren, is hoping that her 7 1/2-year-old fashion boutique is one of the Warren businesses selected to participate.

A family-owned business, Hill said her customer base primarily has been people who heard about the store through word of mouth. Hill operates the store with her daughter, Tiffany Stanford.

“We sell unique fashions that you won’t find in most mall stores,” Hill said. “I’ve traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe to find unique clothing for women and men.”

Jessie Fincham and Jeannie Schmucker, owners of the Burlap Shack, 3323 Parkman Road, which makes handmade products, hopes this venture will help to expand the largest portion of their customer base significantly beyond Trumbull County, but also allow them to remain in Warren.

“We want to be part of the rebuilding of this city,” Fincham said.