As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape our world, more consumers have begun shopping online in greater numbers and frequency. A recent report showed United States customers bought over $183 billion in goods – all online – from March 2020 to February 2021. Although more and more people are buying products online, local merchants are not necessarily benefiting from this massive increase in online shopping. Some College of Charleston students want to change that trend. Four CofC students in the Stuart M. Williams Impact Scholars Program in the School of Business have developed the Impact Hub CHS project. The purpose of the project is to develop an e-commerce platform that allows Charleston-based companies to sell their products directly to local residents, thus ensuring that local money will stay in the local community. “Essentially, we want to revitalize our economy,” says CofC Honors College student Jody Bell, who is majoring in finance. “COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our economy, and even now with tourism down and many people still reliant on online shopping to stay safe, our local businesses continue to suffer. We aim to provide the safety of online shopping in a convenient manner that allows Charleston residents to still support local businesses.”
businesses on king street in downtown charleston

Charleston businesses, including those on King Street, can get additional exposure to local consumers through Impact Hub CHS.

The platform allows any business within the Charleston area to list their products and services on the site free of charge. Using a unique ranking system, consumers can select which products or services to buy based upon how much of your money will remain in our economy. “Now, more than ever, my family has been emphasizing the importance of supporting local businesses,” says CofC Honors College student Caroline Greer, who is majoring in economics. “One issue I noticed is that there was no centralized database that made these companies accessible. This project is the best answer, giving businesses exposure to new buyers and allowing shoppers the ability to make a deliberate impact.” Stuart Williams, an entrepreneur-in-residence for the College’s School of Business, says the idea of the Impact Hub CHS was born after a conversation with Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “Charleston has not been immune to the economic effects of COVID and as a region we have closed hundreds of businesses, thousands of people have been laid off, and thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors are at higher levels of risk than in recent memory,” says Williams. “Mayor Tecklenburg wanted to find ways to help existing businesses grow and create new impact focused businesses while helping our most vulnerable neighbors. The result is Impact HUB CHS and it is a great example of how public/private collaborations can be used to help our community”. Additional information on the Impact Hub CHS project can be found at impactchs.com.