Today we are talking with Cara Oppenheimer and Cary Telander Fortin, the co-founders of goodbuy, about how their business is helping people shop consciously. Below are excerpts from the full conversation, viewable above.
Cara, what’s the story behind the creation of goodbuy?
Oppenheimer: I am the child of small-business owners. I watched my parents go through the rise of mega-retailers and ecommerce stores and how much that squashed the visibility for small businesses. During the pandemic, I bought a couple of insulated water bottles on a big mega-retailer [site]. I went to visit my parents in their store and noticed right away, at the point-of-purchase display, the same water bottle. It just clicked for me at that moment that there are thousands of retailers out there who are carrying the same products that we all need and want. We just can’t see them.
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For goodbuy, it was about creating visibility for all of these small businesses. What happened was, in the middle of the night one night, I woke up and thought of the idea and texted Cary and said, “It’s a browser extension that intercepts all of your reflexive, online, mega-retail shopping and offers you the same product, or better, from a values-aligned business.” She woke up and said, “THIS is it,” and we got to work.
So how does your product help people shop consciously?
Oppenheimer: Seventy percent of all online U.S. spending goes into the pockets of literally 15 mega-retailers. That was a big jumping-off point for Cary and I to think about what goodbuy meant as a business. It is was, first and foremost, visibility for small businesses. That is what we stand for. Thereafter, it’s about supporting businesses with conscious practices, with sustainable products, with vegan products, with American-made products and various owner identities like Black-owned, women-owned, AAPI-owned. The list goes on.
Before we created goodbuy, it was really time consuming to be able to shop consciously. You’ve got a sustainable marketplace over there and a women-owned marketplace over here. Everything’s very siloed, but really what you have is a product need. You’ve got a wallet you need, or a water bottle you need, and it would be nice if you could support a small business or be more conscious with your purchase. That’s ultimately why we created what we did.
Can you explain how the goodbuy extension works?
The goodbuy browser extension pops up and offers you that same product, or better, from a values-aligned business in the moment that you need it. What that looks like for us now is 185,000 small businesses in our database and 19 million products and counting so that we’ve got something for everyone to be able to shop consciously.
Cary, what was the hardest part of building and launching this business?
Fortin: For us at goodbuy, like so many other businesses, the hardest part was the backdrop of the pandemic, all of the instability and uncertainty that brought. Would we be able to work in person? What’s happening to supply chains? What’s going to happen to these small businesses that we love? While that was our biggest challenge, it was also our biggest inspiration, because we knew that people were shopping online more than ever and that consumer expectations were evolving. Our expectations were evolving. We knew that making a tool like goodbuy more necessary than ever.
And how are you ensuring that the small businesses on your platform meet the standards of what they are claiming to be?
Fortin: We rely on respected third-party certifications. For example, you see a store that’s tagged as American made on goodbuy, they will be certified “Made in the USA.” If you find a store that’s tagged sustainable, they will be 1% for the Planet or Certified Carbon Neutral. We also have to say that we know that it can be cost- and time-prohibitive for small businesses to get these certifications. That is a process we are working on democratizing.
How is goodbuy evolving as a product?
Fortin: By being obsessively focused on our users and the experiences that they are looking for from us. We heard that folks wanted an opportunity to discover more of these 185,000 small businesses that we have. We also heard that they wanted to be able to shop specifically along different values that really matter to them, so we launched our shop page. Moving forward, something we’re really excited about is moving into mobile. We’ve heard that our users want to shop on their phones. We have a mobile browser extension launching really shortly.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are about to launch their business?
Oppenheimer: We’re all just people from different experiences with unique backgrounds. We all have a unique perspective to give. I think once you put that perspective into place, taking that leap of faith that turns you from just [someone with] an idea into an entrepreneur is so much easier, because you can approach many people knowing, “I don’t have to solve everything. There are experts out there, but my experience is going to create something meaningful.”