Small businesses from Atlanta, Birmingham, Detroit, Houston and Washington, DC participated in Shipt’s accelerator program to set them up for success in a changing marketplace
Earlier this year, Shipt announced the launch of our new local business accelerator program, LadderUp. After receiving hundreds of applications from deserving small businesses around the country, we welcomed 10 local retailers to the program.
Fast forward to today, we are proud to announce that our initial class completed an extensive eight-week course, learning from retail industry leaders on how to drive sustainable growth, build a solid financial foundation, increase efficiency, and improve their marketing. Each of these local businesses also got a primer on e-commerce, using Shipt, and the basic legal knowledge to help run a business. These retailers also received $5,000 from Shipt to invest in their e-commerce and access to Shopify’s platform at no cost for a limited time.
“These business owners are change makers in their communities and are providing their customers with not only goods and services, but connection and a place of belonging,” said Khadijah Abdullah, vice president of economic and social impact. “Shipt congratulates our inaugural LadderUp retailers and we look forward to continuing to support them in building more healthy, resilient, and equitable communities.”
We packed a lot of content into the course, but LadderUp participants were more than up to the task. We were inspired by their enthusiasm for learning and steadfast commitment to the people and places they serve.
What was it like to be a part of the first LadderUp class? Take it from these local business leaders to hear what they gained:
E-Commerce is the Future. For Aurora Market co-owner Rahel Kassa in Washington, DC, and Grace’s Nutrition Market owner Michelle Garcia in Houston, TX, LadderUp opened the doors to the world of e-commerce – something they had always wanted to pursue but had never felt ready to. With access to industry experts and peers, Rahel and Michelle were able to ask questions and learn what it would take to build and run a successful e-commerce platform – a critical requirement for adapting their businesses to the modern marketplace. For Jasann Gilliamm, founder of Leafy Greens Market in Atlanta, learning how to add delivery is an important and critical way to better serve her community.
Growing and Expanding Your Customer Base is Key. Pillar and Pride founder and CEO Tyree Williams in Detroit, Michigan has a diverse and loyal customer base that spans a wide age range – or as he puts it, from their early 20s through “seasoned citizens” – but he wanted to better understand how to grow the store’s reach. Tyree especially benefited from learning how to better track and improve customer retention. For Jacquie Fazekas, owner of Bama Health Foods LLC in Birmingham, Alabama, improving their online presence was especially important so they could reach members of their community beyond their physical store.
The Online Marketplace Offers an Unparalleled Path to Growth. For Ping Ho of Marrow Detroit Provisions in Detroit, Michigan, the timing of LadderUp was perfect. She had just begun expanding into e-commerce with her hybrid butcher shop/restaurant enterprise and was excited to learn about how she could harness new online platforms to make more sales. House Plant Collective owner Jessica Watts was excited to learn how to bring the joy of house plants from her storefront in Birmingham, Alabama to the local community.
Scaling is Essential for Success. Sam Newman, founder of Little Red Box Grocery, operates a small community-focused neighborhood market in Houston’s second ward that is small in size but big in heart. Sam is hoping to build off the success of Little Red Box and appreciated learning how to scale his approach to reach other underserved communities and improve the business’s efficiency. Similarly, Jeff Delp, the Director of Economic Development of Carver Neighborhood Market in Atlanta found it valuable to learn how to streamline his business’s processes and sharpen their strategic plan.
It Helps to Hear from Those That Have Been There. For Ivy Wall and Jeremy Peaches, founders of Fresh Houwse Grocery, they appreciated that unlike other business accelerators, LadderUp was specifically focused on grocery and retail, so course content felt especially relevant to them and they shared they could personally relate to the instructors. Ivy and Jeremy also found it helpful that in addition to class time, they were able to follow up to receive one-on-one guidance. When Ivy had additional questions on digital marketing and merchandising, she could connect directly with her course instructor.
We’re All in This Together. Across the board, we heard from these businesses that in addition to learning a great deal in a short amount of time, it was invaluable to connect with each other. Retailers shared they felt reassured to know that nearly all of them were facing or had overcome similar challenges and many of the retailers remain in touch, as they continue in their journey as small local retailers.
Community is Everything. Finally, for all of our retailers, a commitment to serving their communities was their guiding North. Each and every one of these business owners shared experiences of customers becoming lifelong friends, the community uniting together to help neighbors in need, and the pride they each take in providing a safe place for people to come together.
We are also excited to announce that in 2024, Marrow Detroit Provisions and House Plant Collective will be available on Shipt’s marketplace for local delivery in their communities. We are thrilled to have graduated our first class of LadderUp participants and look forward to welcoming more small businesses to the LadderUp program in the future.