Small-business owner starts anew with online directory

By Laurie Arendt

March 19, 2019

 Shop Main Street Online is working with the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce to give each of its members a free enhanced director listing valued at $379. Mike Jackson of C. Wiesler’s purchased an upgraded enhanced listing knowing that Shop Main Street Online would donate $100 to Jackson’s preferred nonprofit, Mel’s Charities, and to the chamber. By doing so, he was recognized as a socially conscious business owner. Pictured, from left, are Tom “Mel” Stanton, Chamber Executive Director Maggie Dobson, Patty Gallun Hansen of Shop Main Street Online and Jackson.
Photo by Mark Justesen/Conley Media

CEDARBURG — As a longtime small business owner who sells her jewelry inventory online, Patty Gallun Hansen’s frustration had reached a breaking point.

“I had been on Etsy and it was just getting so expensive,” she said. “Sometimes I had a bill of $200 to $300 a month, without even selling anything. There are so many hidden fees.”

That was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Though Etsy touts itself as an e-commerce site focused on handmade, unique and vintage items, Gallun Hansen noticed a new type of vendor appearing on the site.

“It seemed to be that there were many more bigger companies and foreign companies,” she said. “I’m a small business owner. I can’t compete with that in the worldwide marketplace.”

Gallun Hansen is a graduate gemologist and owns a 70-year-old family business, Dorothy Gallun Fine Jewelry. She also previously owned another small business, What’s Poppin, a popcorn store in Cedarburg. She’s no stranger to the challenges of owning and succeeding as a small-business person.

Around the same time that her frustration was boiling over, Gallun Hansen received her letter from the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce asking her to pay her membership.

“I called up (former) Executive Director Jen Andreas and asked her what was in the membership for me,” said Gallun Hansen, who actually used to serve in that role. “She, of course, said everything I would have said and then I said, ‘Give me a half hour of your time and I’ll pay my membership.’” She had actually been working on an idea, one for small businesses just like hers, and she filled Andreas in, who responded positively, according to Gallun Hansen.

“I was looking into the possibility of creating a multi-vendor platform for small businesses, one that created another commerce channel for small American businesses,” she said.

When she initially started checking into what it would cost to take the idea from concept to reality, she encountered sticker shock.

“I was looking at anywhere from $150,000 to $250,000, so I put that on hold,” she said.

And then she remembered a longtime friend with an extensive career in information technology, Brian Bateman.

“I explained my idea to him and he agreed to do it for free if we could be partners,” she said. “He believed in the idea that much.”

The business, Shop Main Street Online — shopmainstreamonline.com — had what Gallun Hansen called a “soft live” launch in June 2018.

“We wanted to make sure all the bugs were out before we really started to promote it,” Gallun Hansen said. “I am at 150-percent confidence that the site is running at its optimum level now. We do have traffic to the site and we do have people selling things; our food vendors are doing well.”

Unlike other existing online platforms, Gallun said that the Shop Main Street Online site is much kinder to small businesses and requires no up-front or listing fees.

“It’s a straight 10-percent commission and that includes your bank fees,” she said. “You don’t pay anything until you make a sale.”

“We give American businesses a risk-free way to sell their products or services online, without having to worry about the expense associated with building their own e-commerce site or website,” said Bateman in a press release.

Additionally, Shop Main Street Online donates 10 percent of its profits to participating communities and nonprofit organizations.

Locally, Shop Main Street Online has created an agreement with the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce to give each of their members a free enhanced directory listing.

“Mike Jackson from Wiesler’s made the decision to purchase a upgraded enhanced listing knowing that Shop Main Street Online would donate $100 to Mike’s preferred non-profit, Mel’s Charities, and to the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce,” Gallun Hansen said. “By doing so, he is recognized a socially conscious business in Cedarburg. A certificate and door decal at his business tells his patrons that he is a supporter of the community we live in.”

Gallun Hansen said she’s been making presentations to different chambers of commerce groups, business improvement districts and other similar organizations about the site.

“Some are really interested, some people aren’t, but that’s OK,” she said. “There is absolutely no reason this can’t be the next Amazon for small, American businesses because we are a force to be reckoned with. When individual American businesses succeed, we all succeed.”