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When you need to buy something – like a new water bottle or a Christmas gift or a new winter hat for your kid because they’ve left theirs at school for the 1000th time – what's your shopping process like?
Do you put it on your list for the next time you have time to go out shopping? Do you take the time to go find it at a local store? And if that store doesn’t have it, do go on to the next store? Do you google the product, then click through the pages until you find a small business that sells what you are looking for? Or do you click on the first match displayed on Google? Do you quickly type it into Amazon and buy the one with the lowest prices and best reviews?
No shame if you go the Amazon or other mega-retailer route. I do it too. But now I’ll ask you this: how does that shopping process make you feel?
Personally, I always feel a little pang of guilt when I get home from work and see a stack of brown boxes with Amazon tape. Especially when I bought something that I know I could get locally and just didn't make the time to go get it.
This is where goodbuy comes in.
Goodbuy is a Boise-based company on a mission to make it easier to find the items you need from business that you actually feel good about supporting.
The beginning of goodbuy
Cara Oppenheimer and Cary Fortin are best friends and co-founders of Goodbuy.
They met about six years ago while touring a local daycare. Both Cara and Cary were very pregnant at the time, and while they didn’t end up choosing that daycare for their soon-to-be-born kids, they did choose each other to be friends. They exchanged numbers and soon after, they discovered they lived a few blocks away from each other. They ended up having their kids two days apart and spent their winter maternity leaves learning to be new moms together.
Quickly, Cary and Cara realized they had a lot of shared passion, similar ambition, entrepreneurial wherewithal, and a strong desire to improve and make societal changes. Both women welcomed their second children in the throes of the 2020 pandemic – which was another bonding experience on its own – but it was the unique scenario of being stuck at home with kids that led to what eventually would become goodbuy.
“We were having a lot of conversations that sort of turned into meetings that turned into creative brainstorms about how we were going to fix this dynamic we felt as humans, which was that we are conscious individuals and we want to be more conscious shoppers,” said Cara.
A story Cara tells often is about a Hydroflask. She needed a new water bottle for her kid, so she bought a Hydroflask on Amazon. She was short on time and busy with two babies, so she did a quick search and within a few clicks her new water bottle was on its way to her doorstep. Easy peasy. But then that same day, she walked into a local store and what do you know – there was an entire display of Hydroflasks, exactly like the one she had just bought on Amazon, right there in front of her.
“That was a really big spark moment for me. My stomach sank and I was just sort of like shit. There’s thousands of businesses out there – businesses that literally carry the exact same products – but the moment you have a product in mind and you go to look for it online, you can’t find it from the small businesses right away. Those businesses are on page 10 of Google because they can’t compete with the SEO and ad budgets of Amazon and other big retailers.”
A few days later she was up in the middle of the night feeding her baby, still thinking about the water bottle and the small business dilemma, when an idea came to her.
“I texted Cary and was like, we need to create a browser extension, like Honey, that intercepts all of our reflexive online shopping habits. Intercepts them and pops up with the same product or a better product from a small business that is aligned with your values.”
Cary was immediately on board and that was the very beginning of goodbuy. Within two days Cara and Cary had a name, built a pitch deck, and mapped out how they would create the extension. They got funded fairly quickly, and got to building the company within a few months.
"I think if we hadn’t had the forcing point of our kids, this idea wouldn't have happened," said Cary. "Being at home in the pandemic with small people who you couldn't take anywhere... it was like you were trapped. I was home and I have all this stuff I need, and I have all these people in the world who can't help me. What do I do other than order it?"
It was so easy to order things that it became mindless. Unmarked packages would show up on their doorsteps and they wouldn't even remember what it was they had ordered. It was a world away from their previous lives, back when they could physically go to a store, interact with a shop owner, and leave with products that they need and loved.
"We realized that there is so much put on us as individuals to make these good choices when shopping," said Cary. "Yes, individual effort really matters. But why aren't we creating bigger systemic changes? Why aren't we doing something to make it easy for people to make the choice that feels good?"
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How goodbuy works
Goodbuy is a browser extension. You install it on your web browser (for free), then search for products as you would normally. When you are shopping on a mega-retailer's website, goodbuy will automatically pop up on the side and display the same product from small businesses. Click on the product that catches your eye, and it takes you directly to the product on the small businesses's website.
For example, say you go to Amazon and search for sunglasses. Just as Amazon displays the thousands and thousands of sunnies they have for sale, goodbuy pops up with hundreds of sunglasses for sale from small businesses all over the country.
Goodbuy also has a website, where you can search for products directly and shop all of the small businesses that work with goodbuy. There are more than 185,000 small businesses from all over the country and 19,500,000 products in the goodbuy database.
You can take it a step further by filtering your search based on your values. Goodbuy has 15 different "business owner identities and business values" associated with each of the small businesses they work with. It makes it ridiculously easy to shop at businesses that align directly with your values. This includes shops that are family-owned, Black-owned, veteran-owned, owners with disabilities, American made, sustainable, vegan, local, and more.
Buying that feels better
Goodbuy aims to bring that analog feeling of going into small business or local store, to the digital world.
"We have this hope that if people are presented with two options that are equally or very close to the same easiness and same product, that they're going to choose the business that makes them feel good about themselves, feel good about the product, and feel good about the purchase they made," said Cara.
"We work hard for our money, and yet we've been trained that shopping is equated with shame. You know, it's like you're hiding this from your husband or you're buying something but you feel guilty, right? There's a lot of that," said Cara. "What we're trying to do is replace that shame of shopping with this sort of continuous dopamine hit of supporting things and people that matter to you."
And it's not just the actual buying experience that goodbuy is interested in. They want your shopping experience to feel good at literally every step: while browsing, when purchasing, when the package is delivered to you, when you use or gift that product, and when you directly contribute to your local economy.
"Shopping small is not not just like a favor to small businesses. It truly affects our economy and affects how many people are hired in our local community, and how small businesses give back to their local communities," said Cara. "It's an ecosystem that we've abandoned because of big tech and SEO and marketing budgets. Now we're trying to get back to a place of visibility for small business. How can we bring them to the forefront again, so that the feeling you have when you're shopping offline and in store is now created universally, online? That's what we're trying to do."
You can try goodbuy by visiting www.trygoodbuy.com and/or downloading the goodbuy app. And with it being the holiday gifting season, you can also make your own wishlist on goodbuy to share with family & friends, and you can shop goodbuy's holiday catalog.
Thanks for reading & happy shopping!
With love from Boise,
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