|iBerkshires Hosting New Directory to Support Local Business|
|10:32AM / Thursday, October 08, 2020|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local online publisher Boxcar Media is launching a website to support local businesses during the novel coronavirus pandemic: SupportTheBerkshires.com.
Small businesses have borne the brunt of COVID-19. Those not considered "essential business" were forced to close in mid-March and for many months afterward. Businesses of all stripes have had to deal with reduced hours and occupancy, lost sales and difficult decisions regarding employees and operations.
To help our local businesses and nonprofits, iBerkshires.com has been hosting a "What's Open" page for free listings of hours, openings and in-person and online options since the pandemic struck. The success of that venture has lead to the development of SupportTheBerkshires.com.
"We want to create an awareness of how incredibly important it is for all of us to support local retail shops, restaurants, service companies, etc., if possible," said Osmin Alvarez, president of Boxcar Media and publisher of iBerkshires.com. "Studies have shown that buying local keeps four times the money in the local economy compared to shopping at chains. Local businesses and service providers pay local taxes, they hire local people and they are our neighbors.
"We are just trying to make sure that everyone is aware of how important it is during these trying times to help keep a local business in mind."
Posting on the interactive directory will be free thanks to donations from sponsors who will underwrite the initiative. Small businesses in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont will be able to post a profile of pictures, hours, locations, services, and website and social media links.
A number of community-minded entities have already signed on to support the website, which launches on Nov. 1.
"The response to this initiative has been overwhelming and we are less than two weeks from conception of the idea," Alvarez said. "Underwriters are funding the ability for any business to get free exposure, the marketing efforts planned to promote the site and the continual upgrading of the site functions."
Several local chambers of commerce have also signed on to be part of the SupportTheBerkshires.com and to help get word out about the marketing opportunities to their members.
The site will be promoted heavily over the coming months with billboard ads, Facebook and Google marketing campaigns, and signage for local businesses to place in their windows to promote the initiative. Other media marketing is being developed and it will, of course, be hosted by iBerkshires.com
, which receives 1.3 million page views a month.
Alvarez said the "What's Open" section was able to help a lot of businesses communicate how they were operating during the pandemic and the feedback had been very positive.
"As we spoke to many businesses and business-related organizations about enhancing that effort, we realized that the next six months could be tough for local businesses and that we could do something to help," he said. "We needed to find partners and underwriters to be able to accomplish our goal and seven out of the first 10 underwriters/sponsors we spoke to signed up immediately and wanted to be part of something that helps our local community."
The site will initially launch as a interactive business directory but the plan is to enhance it with with a business-to-business component that will allow business owners to find resources they need within the community rather than going outside.
"iBerkshires.com is proud to help our fellow local business owners in navigating these difficult times," said iBerkshires Editor in Chief Tammy Daniels. "These businesses have supported iBerkshires for two decades so we can bring you the news you need. Now we can #SupportTheBerkshires together."