Ecommerce startup TruLocal preparing to launch in Indianapolis

TruLocal, a San Francisco-based startup that offers an e-commerce platform for small retailers, said it has chosen Indianapolis as one of its first three launch markets.

The company plans to start the service here Sept. 15, followed by Tucson, Arizona, a week later, then Fort Myers, Florida.

A five-member sales team started contacting local retailers a few weeks ago and, as of late last week, about 40 local stores had either signed up for the service or were in the process of doing so, said company cofounder and CEO Susan Hollingshead.

Hollingshead said TruLocal’s founders began talking about the concept for the company a year ago, started writing the software in January and incorporated this past spring.

Local retailers, Hollingshead said, often struggle to compete with online behemoths like Amazon and Walmart for a couple of reasons: ecommerce technology is expensive, and small-business websites can get buried in a mountain of online search results, making it hard for customers to find them.

“Whenever you’re talking about small business, you don’t have the efficiencies of scale,” Hollingshead said.

Hollingshead described TruLocal.com as an online marketplace designed to address these issues. Customers can visit the site to search for products by retailer, type of product or geography. Retailers, in turn, can gain more online exposure than they might on their own. Retailers can join TruLocal regardless of whether they have an ecommerce site of their own.

TruLocal will also offer consumers the option to have items shipped to their homes—but that service won’t launch for another two months or so, Hollingshead said. Until then, consumers can opt for pickup at the store or delivery.

Retailers don’t pay a fee to join TruLocal, Hollingshead said. The ecommerce platform will make money by charging retailers a transaction fee when they sell items through the site.

Hollingshead said TruLocal analyzed cities nationwide before settling on Indianapolis, Tucson and Fort Myers as its first three markets. All three have a large and diverse mix of local retailers, a customer base loyal to those retailers and local government and chambers of commerce who are supportive of local retail.

Hollingshead is originally from South Bend and attended high school in Elkhart, which is why she chose Indianapolis as TruLocal’s debut market.

Before launching TruLocal, Hollingshead was an adviser to Houston-based Quidnet Energy, which launched in 2013 and focuses on renewable energy. Before that, she was chief people officer at San Francisco-based Vendini, which offers event ticketing, marketing, fundraising and patron-management software.

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