PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide one of three tools to help connect regional producers and retailers
Guide, ecommerce platform and virtual event simplify sourcing of regionally-made products
RIDGWAY — Individuals or retailers looking for products made in the Pennsylvania Wilds are encouraged to check out the 2021 PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide, a free downloadable tool for sourcing regionally-made products and services. The recently released tool is just one of several PA Wilds market resources available to regional businesses in 2021.
The PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide is an annual digital publication by the Wilds Cooperative of PA (WCO), a network of over 300 creative entrepreneurs based in the rural 13-county region known as the PA Wilds. The Buyer’s Guide organizes artisan products by medium and showcases businesses selling PA Wilds branded products, providing opportunities for retailers to acquire PA Wilds merchandise for their stores or businesses.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated how important our local businesses and producers are to our quality of life. We see the PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide as one tool that can help uplift our artisans and businesses, build connections among them, and inspire new collaborations,” said Abbi Peters, Executive Vice President of Operations at the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., the nonprofit that manages the WCO. “The Wilds Cooperative is free to join, removing barriers to access to small businesses looking to get involved in these opportunities.”
The PA Wilds Center is tasked with coordinating the regional effort to build a nature-heritage tourism destination tied to the place-based brand of the PA Wilds. It supports the WCO entrepreneurial ecosystem by helping members leverage the PA Wilds brand and by connecting and promoting the products, services and experiences only found in the region. The Buyer’s Guide is a product of that effort, but not the only one.
In addition to expanding its own physical gift shops, which source products from the WCO, PA Wilds Center is developing a new ecommerce platform and annual event to provide additional market opportunities and allow qualified vendors in the WCO to sell directly to consumers from their locations, but with the added marketing power of the regional PA Wilds brand. The new PA Wilds Marketplace is expected to come online in late Spring 2021 and will expand the products available at ShopThePAWilds.com. In addition, the PA Wilds Makers Market, a virtual sales event that was developed in lieu of in-person exhibitor events due to COVID-19 in the summer of 2020, is back for year two.
PA WILDS MARKETPLACE
A dozen businesses from across the PA Wilds are helping to build out the new PA Wilds Marketplace, which is expected to go live later this Spring.
PA Wilds Center announced last fall plans to pilot the online marketplace to connect consumers to authentic local products made in the PA Wilds region. An investment from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) helped PA Wilds Center contract with Erie-based MakerPlace Inc. to develop the technological aspects of the marketplace, which will be built onto an existing framework established by MakerPlace for its own MasonJars.com marketplace. The move to a marketplace-style site will allow visitors to ShopThePAWilds.com to source a variety of new products from a host of new PA Wilds producers.
“Currently ShopThePAWilds.com only features products available at our PA Wilds Conservation Shops, or gift shops tied to the visitor experience at PA Wilds public lands. This inventory is limited by our storage space and budget, and the model doesn’t work for every producer, as we purchase products wholesale for our shops. The new PA Wilds Marketplace will continue to showcase products from our physical PA Wilds Conservation Shops, but it will no longer be limited by our inventory capacity. Individual artisans will be selling directly to shoppers — that means more awesome products for buyers and more opportunities for our rural makers,” said Peters.
PA WILDS MAKERS MARKET
The PA Wilds Makers Market is a live online sales event featuring members of the WCO in virtual vendor booths. With the help of entrepreneurs participating in the WCO, the first ever PA Wilds Makers Market was held last July, and a fall version was held in October. Planners are looking to make it an annual offering leading up to the holidays.
“While we realize that nothing can replace in-person events, we’ve seen how these virtual events still offer unique opportunities to network and make meaningful business connections for participants,” said LaKeshia Knarr, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director at PA Wilds Center. “The Makers Market features business spotlights, demonstrations and tours, and it offers shoppers the opportunity to interact with artisans one-on-one in real time.”
This year’s Makers Market is scheduled for Saturday, October 23, 2021. Additional information will be available soon on pawilds.com.
REACHING MORE CUSTOMERS ONLINE
“The pandemic made it clear how important an online presence is, and we hope the PA Wilds Buyer’s Guide, PA Wilds Marketplace and PA Wilds Makers Market help remove the barriers for regional businesses looking to find new markets tied to the PA Wilds brand since they are all available online,” Peters said.
Since opening the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park in August of 2016, PA Wilds Center staff has seen that there is a high demand for regionally-made products, with more than $1 million in sales.
“We hope these new market opportunities help our region’s small producers scale alongside our brand and help us continue to fulfil market demands,” Peters said. “Providing several different avenues for businesses to engage with the PA Wilds brand and find new markets for their products ensures that we’re meeting the businesses where they are. Some businesses can’t sell wholesale, and our juried membership program only permits certain members to sell at our gift shops or to be featured in the Buyer’s Guide. The new PA Wilds Marketplace and annual PA Wilds Makers Market events offer opportunities for more members to take advantage of our brand’s power.”
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of over 300 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.pawilds.com.
LaKeshia Knarr | Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director
PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.
[email protected] | 570-295-9014