Virtual mall educates and promotes independent consultants, small businesses

Marie Winter, owner of Northern Lights, a jewelry and handbag company, relies on in-person sales opportunities to sell her products, or that she has had little this year. Yampa Valley Virtual Mall is changing the way you do business. (Marie Winter / courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Between a health crisis and her short season at the farmer’s market, Marie Winter was losing faith and motivation to keep her business, Northern Lights, running.

She was disappointed and worried that she had lost thousands of dollars in income from the restricted farmer’s market and the cancellation of other events, like the holiday market. When Brady Worster, owner of Fhysical Elements, spoke about an idea she had, that all changed.

Worster, alongside her friend Jessica Koppe, was creating a virtual mall on Facebook for representatives of multi-level marketing companies like Pampered Chef and Scentsy, as well as small businesses like Northern Lights. or Alpine Bee Candles. They call their business enterprise, Yampa Valley Small Business Group.



“I said, ‘Sounds great, but I’m not that good at all of that social media stuff,” ”Winter said. “My boy, have I received an education. It was the best way to give someone a boost. I lost so much motivation and so much energy to even care about the business. I was so depressed. It was so awesome. What a good idea.”

The Yampa Valley Virtual Mall is now open on Facebook with 29 providers. The “shopping center” will be open until December 6. Then a new session will start a week later with up to 30 other providers. Interested sellers can email Worster or Koppe at yampavalleysbg@gmail.com. The couple also hope to share the work and fundraising done by nonprofits that are also reaching out.



Buyers can search for the group on Facebook and join it easily. Already more than 650 people are part of the group.

Worster and Koppe charge a $ 20 consultation fee for the two-week education program that leads to the “opening” of the mall. They teach vendors how to improve engagement with posts as well as when to post and other tips.

Brady Worster, pictured with her husband, Paul, started the Yampa Valley Small Business Group with her friend Jessica Koppe. The duo educate small business owners on the best way to use social media to gain customers. They also facilitate the Yampa Valley Virtual Mall on Facebook. (Courtesy of Brady Worster)

Already, the idea has proven its worth. Every evening, sellers post acknowledgments on the page, showing their gratitude to the people who ordered from their business that day. Winter said that on the first night of her posting to the page, she received an order for more than $ 300.

Some of its products are already selling.

Koppe and Worster came up with the idea after being part of a similar, but much less organized group.

Jessica Koppe, pictured with her son Terrell Lam, started the Yampa Valley Small Business Group with her friend Brady Worster. The duo educate small business owners on the best way to use social media to gain customers. They also facilitate the Yampa Valley Virtual Mall on Facebook. (Courtesy of Brady Worster)

“We can organize one where everyone gets the visibility they deserve to participate and help our community. We want to help our community, but we don’t necessarily have the means to do it financially with all the businesses in town, ”Worster added.

Salespeople are split into two groups, one group posting each day according to an assigned schedule.

There are more resources available for small, physical businesses, but for those who rely on other businesses to sell their products, there are fewer opportunities to advertise or learn social media skills to promote their brand.

Hayden Fresh Farm is also involved while trying to grow her brand online. The farm currently sells produce to the Farmers’ Market and Community Ag Alliance, as well as a few other retailers in the Yampa Valley, but is trying to expand its own retail capabilities.

“I try so hard to get our online part of our website up and running, but unfortunately there are so many hours in a day,” said Michelle Townsend, co-owner of Hayden Fresh Farm. “With the farmer’s market no longer available to us, I thought this could be a great way to let our community know that we are here, that we have produce available, until I can put it in. place that aspect of things. “

For now, Hayden Fresh Farm offers central location pickup and delivery.

Worster believes consumers and designers alike understand that shopping online is an option for local small businesses, not just department stores.

“I think people are starting to realize that this could be the way of the future,” Worster said. “I think they’re a little more likely to go to your website and check it out when you’re a small business than they were in February.”


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Peggy P. Gilmore