Online shopping platform hopes to start mini boom in home-based grocery businesses across Alberta
With COVID-19 ravaging small businesses in Alberta, three Calgary business owners teamed up to find a way to weather the storm while helping other community based businesses stay connected to customers.
After seeing business decline by up to 90 per cent during the pandemic, the trio developed an online platform and app to launch new shops direct from people’s kitchens and basements, while also serving existing home-based stores and businesses.
Ricco Dela Torre, founder of Nimbly Market, says he was inspired by his grandfather’s small, home-based neighbourhood ‘sari-sari’, or variety store in the Philippines, where he says as many as 70 per cent of consumer food products in that country are sold.
They’re a big part of life there.
“Why not take this concept to Calgary and create more businesses?” said Dela Torre, who is joined by wife Ailene in the venture. “But to be able to do that we needed to develop a platform.”
Nimbly Market allows people to set up their own micro-businesses selling specialty products many bigger supermarkets and stores don’t stock, including hard-to-find items popular with different immigrant communities.
“The big box stores can’t build their stores in small communities. And this also helps people who’ve lost their jobs who are looking to create a new opportunity from home,” said Dela Torre.
He says the platform is about providing people with a safe, COVID-friendly way to shop in their own communities.
“You will have limited contact. There’s not a lot of foot traffic and nobody’s touching the product. The owner is the one packing your products,” he said.
“It could be a convenience store, pet shop, bakeries, a small store within the community. The platform allows customers to see nearby stores within a five or 10 kilometre radius,” said Dela Torre.
Customers can have purchases delivered direct from a business owner, picked up or delivered by a Nimbly Market driver.
Dela Torre says they already have a pilot up and running with home-based grocery stores in the Calgary communities of Cornerstone and Auburn Bay, along with a store in Grande Prairie.
“They are already licensed by the city and we have approval from the province,” said Dela Torre.
They’re now busy working to bring more small community businesses on board, establishing relationships with suppliers and readying their new shop and delivery app.
Nimbly Market’s system includes inventory management, digital and traditional marketing, customer service, transaction processing and even a delivery app, similar to Skip the Dishes and Uber, but cheaper for businesses to use.
Anyone running a small business or hobby venture from home that requires getting products to customers can sign up.
“Many of these small independent stores don’t have the reach or the technology to even have a basic website,” said Brian Morales. “We found a solution.”
Morales said it benefits customers too.
“In the northeast we had a single mom working from home who couldn’t go out to get groceries and she wanted to order a specific product for her son, and we could make sure we had that. You have that community relationship and a closer experience,” Morales said.
“You can select a certain time for your delivery and there are different options for that,” he said.
The referral fee is a lot lower than the big delivery apps, closer to 10 to 18 per cent instead of 30 per cent like some of the big restaurant delivery apps.
The team say they hope to launch their app fully in 2021.