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A partnership between local Black Business Consortium of Evanston, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, and Evanston Latinos is preparing to launch Evanston Local Marketplace using eLink Gateway, an online marketplace platform created by Value Innovation Technologies.
ELM is an e-commerce platform that connects Evanston small businesses to consumers, to other business, and to government buyers. Most small businesses don’t have the time, financial resources, or expertise to develop effective e-commerce capabilities. As a result, it is difficult for them to compete with giant corporations with international online marketplaces, especially when it comes to contracts with large institutional buyers.
Bryant Wallace, an Evanston resident, business owner, and member of the Leadership Evanston class of 2019, recognized this challenge. He was familiar with the technology and with the City’s desire to spend more of its budget with local small business as part of the economic development agenda. Wallace created the Evanston Local Marketplace Committee to bring stakeholders together to share ideas and concepts and ensure that ELM is a collaborative community project, rather than one controlled by a single entity.
Co-founder and local business owner Clarence Weaver describes ELM as, “an Amazon-like platform that is secure with a state-of-the-art payment method.”
Local institutions have responded positively to the ELM initiative. The Evanston Community Foundation stepped up and provided the initial funding.
“The City of Evanston has been seeking opportunities to drive more of its spend to local companies,” City Manager Erika Storlie said. “We are very optimistic that ELM will help us achieve this goal in a convenient and efficient way. We are also very interested in the reporting and data analytics ELM will provide.”
Monique Parsons, president and CEO of the McGaw YMCA said, “When small businesses flourish, so does their community. When there’s diversity in the marketplace, it builds economic vitality, uplifts the entire community, and promotes productivity and resilience.” She added, “buying locally in turn supports individuals, families, neighborhoods and other business owners. This strengthens our community and is what McGaw proudly stands behind.”
“We all benefit when local businesses do well,” said Jim Konrad, executive director of procurement and payment services at Northwestern University, one of ELM’s institutional buyers. “We are really looking forward to presenting a catalog of items available from local vendors to faculty and staff through our iBuyNU Marketplace, it aligns well with our overall procurement and payment strategy.”
The Evanston Community Foundation’s September Brown Bag Lunch and Learn on conversation will feature Bryant Wallace and Clarence Weaver with an update on the Evanston Local Marketplace. Learn how nonprofits, small businesses and residents can leverage the ELM purchasing platform to support local business, save procurement dollars and increase productivity. Registration is free for zoom program on Wednesday, Wednesday, September 29, 2021 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.