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Local small businesses come together on new website to help sell products amid pandemic

Posted at 4:48 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 16:48:18-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — More than 250 small, local and independent Tampa Bay businesses are getting a boost during this pandemic through a new website.

Sandi Roper is a one-woman operation. Every candle for sale in her shop, Citrus Blossom Candles and Gifts, she makes herself.

After years of attending craft shows, she opened up her own store in St. Pete in September 2019.

“I was just trying to build up the business and get word of mouth that I was here and then COVID-19 happened and that just slowed everything, in fact, I had to close for about eight weeks,” said Roper.

Like many small business owners in the Tampa Bay area, Roper was looking for new outlets for her merchandise. That’s when she learned about buylocaltampabay.com.

“With the doors closed, I had sales during that time, I had never been so happy in my life that I was making money when I was at home stressing,” said Roper.

The website was started in March by the organization LocalShops1 as a way to sell hundreds of different items from Tampa Bay small businesses all at the same place.

“To me, it’s like another craft show, just actually on a website, which is really good, so I’m among my friends again,” said Roper.

“The best part is every penny that’s made on buylocaltampabay.com goes to the business, there are no commission fees, there is no listing fee,” said Pat Largo, with LocalShops1.

Unlike your big box stores, every purchase comes with a story.

“These are our neighbors,” said Largo. “You go, ‘let me read about this person, oh they’ve been here for 50 years,' or 'oh, they’ve been making these candles for seven or eight years, OK great, so let me help out a local business.'"

“The goal is to pump in $1 million to the entire Tampa Bay area for local businesses,” said Largo.

So far 22,000 purchases have been made on buylocaltampabay.com.