The ShopOnMain Team

So who are the people behind the ShopOnMain website?

Meet CEO Joseph Smith

SmithsJoseph Smith says he’s always felt like a square peg in a world full of round holes. The son of a Kentucky farmer, his drive to succeed took him to Vanderbilt University to study Mechanical Engineering.

He quickly found a passion for start-up businesses. To this day, he regales the team at ShopOnMain with stories of his time at the earliest days of Amazon – “when we worked for peanuts, slept in the breakroom and had dogs running around the place.”

Joe struck out on his own in 2004 as a consultant, eventually forming JJSmith Marketing. It was through that company that he assembled the current ShopOnMain team. As this group helped clients succeed with online marketing, they began to see a pattern: businesses were struggling in an online environment that sometimes made it seem the deck was stacked against them.

“We saw there was a need,” Joe says, “for small to medium sized businesses – the kind you see on every Main Street – to have a web presence. But as they tried to come online they were facing tough challenges. They could spend time and resources on their own website, only to see it sit there with no shoppers.”

“Or, they could list their products on existing ecommerce sites. There, they might make sales but typically aren’t allowed to build a relationship with those customers. In many cases those customers don’t even realize who they purchased from. Businesses need loyal, repeat shoppers in order to grow. The only ones getting repeat business on the current platforms are the websites themselves – not the individual businesses that make them work.”
And so, ShopOnMain was born.

For Joe, the absolute best part of starting companies like JJSmith Marketing and now ShopOnMain is that both are designed to be virtual workplaces, allowing the entire team to work from home. In Joe’s case, home is a farm outside Bardstown, KY that he shares with his wife, Julie, and their two children: 12 year old Andrew and 8 year old Alexandra.

“Most of the businesses who are or will be on ShopOnMain have one thing in common with those of us building it,” he says. “We do this because we want to be there for our families. We want to build something we can pass down to them. We also want to be with them for the journey, after all the journey is life.”


 

Meet Software Architect Matt Crowe

10931199_1126687627346620_9210360654323832487_nMatthew Crowe could be working from anywhere. The coder behind ShopOnMain has a passion for travel that has taken him all over the world – most frequently to Central and South America. In fact, a good chunk of the software the website runs on (which Matt built completely from scratch) was written from Colombia and Nicaragua.

Which is no small feat. The software Matt built from the ground up includes a secure shopping cart system with a shipping component that allows businesses to print shipping labels and generate tracking emails for customers with a single click. So businesses that sell products on ShopOnMain don’t have to download orders and upload tracking information as they do on other platforms.

Matt studied Manufacturing Engineering in college, but switched careers to find something more enjoyable – and flexible. His travel addiction got off to a good start in college where he spent a year studying in Bogota, Columbia. Fluent in Spanish, he also worked in Matamoros, Mexico in the manufacturing of airbags and steering wheels.

But you can’t do your manufacturing job from anywhere. You can, however, build software anywhere you have an internet connection.

Today, Matt’s travel entourage includes wife Misty and their 16-month-old daughter, Cora. When they’re at home in Ohio they enjoy playing board games – Matt has over 100 board games in his collection.


 

Meet Marketing & Communications Writer Lisa Packer

12274428_10206306315230071_4081201172397060448_nLisa Packer has always been a writer. Whether it was diaries and journals as a young girl, or poems and short stories that were published anonymously in her High School paper, she’s always been putting pen to paper.

As a young mother in the mid-2000’s, Lisa discovered she could use her writing talent to help businesses grow – and build a career working from home. By the end of that decade she’d met Joseph Smith – first as a freelance copywriter for JJSmith Marketing, then as a full time member of the team.

Besides working from home, her favorite part of the job has been the opportunity to learn and grow. She’s participated in some of the most exclusive training workshops and conferences in the Internet Marketing world, and loves putting that knowledge to use to help small businesses succeed.

“The most exciting thing, to me, about ShopOnMain is that it’s giving locally owned businesses a chance to fight back. Up till now, the Internet was something that took customers away from businesses like these in favor of big-box websites. Now, by banding together on this platform, smaller businesses have an advantage they didn’t have before.”

From November to March (and into early April every so often) Lisa lives for college basketball. Specifically, for the UNC Tarheels. A lifelong fan, she takes the #1 rivalry in College Sports very seriously.

“My dad is a Duke fan,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how late the games are, if either team loses we’ll call each other to rub it in. He’s always trying to convert my kids to the Dark Side. Of course, I raised them better than that.”

Her kids are Aaron, 20 and Josiah, 15. Husband Warren is a Tarheel fan as well. They try to attend at least one game a year in Chapel Hill.

“One day I’m going to have season tickets,” Lisa says. “Maybe when I retire.”

 

The ShopOnMain Company Core Values

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WOW is such a short and simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW. We seek to WOW our customers, our co-workers, our vendors… anyone who comes in contact with this company deserves WOW.

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We can’t allow feelings to get in the way of results. No matter how much time we’ve spent on a project or how much we may like an idea, it lives or dies by the results it produces. Likewise, we aren’t here JUST to provide service or warm feelings to customers. If we’re not producing profitable results we won’t exist to serve anyone.

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Only in an atmosphere of truth can excellence be achieved. Withholding disagreements, constructive criticism or ideas (at and toward all levels) can only stifle the company as a whole.

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As a team, we support and respect each other like family. Customers are an extension of that family and deserve respect, kindness, and awe-inspiring service whenever possible. Our personal families are most important of all. When they need us we are there – and can catch up with work later.

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In operations, in thinking, and in schedules. We change when necessary no matter how much we may like or have invested in the status quo.

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Strive to be the best “You” you can be. By seeking opportunities to better educate and grow ourselves and our skills, we strengthen the company as a whole. 2

An Interview With Shop on Main’s CEO Joseph Smith

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Joe: Well… I was in Amazon when it was brand new, when you brought your dogs to work and made peanuts. Well, we made less than peanuts really but I left there and started JJ Smith in 2004 after the birth of my first son. And I started helping small businesses build their online presence and bring traffic to their sites.

Over time I began to realize that the entire internet was built to be the most efficient, fastest way to buy stuff that’s probably ever existed in history of the world, No matter what you wanted to buy, you could literally have it in a couple of minutes and it would show up in your doorstep in a day or two later.

But buying is not shopping. Right? Shopping is different. Shopping is about exploring, discovering new things with your friends. It’s a social thing.

Buying is just a transaction. Done. Thank you. Over.

But what we’re attempting to build with Shop on Main is a shopping experience.

Online from the very beginning has been built about efficiency and how fast can we get someone through the process. But, if social media has proven anything, it’s proven we don’t want to always be online and off as quickly as we possibly can. Sometimes we want to hang out online and do stuff and talk… So that’s where the idea of Shop in Main came from.

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Joe: I definitely see a shopping experience as being much more visual. I also see it as being much more relational. For instance, when you walk down any town’s main street and you go into a store you’re likely to meet the store owner and have an actual conversation. You’re going to talk to him, “Oh what are you doing?”, “This is what we build”, “This is what we make”. It’s going to be much more of a relationship that you’ll get in any kind of big box store.

I mean a ‘real’ shopping experience is so different than what we get in Amazon, right? I love Amazon. I’m proud of Amazon, I’m probably one of their biggest customers. But it is not a shopping experience. It’s a buying experience. Two minutes I’m on and I’m off. And then I’m on to whatever else I’m doing.

So that’s not a shopping experience. A shopping experience touches you at an emotional level. It allows you to discover stuff that makes you happy. So the question is how do we take something that’s more emotional, more about exploration and discovery and combine it with the idea of superfast, easy, convenient purchasing.

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When you think about it, most things are purchased during a shopping trip—an experience if you will. They’re not purchased because “Oh I have to have some screws” or “I have to have a light bulb”.
Some of the best retailers in the world–big box stores like Walmart—have figured out how to combine the two. You go to those stores because you’re saying “I have to have a gallon of milk” and then you have a shopping experience while you’re in there buying your gallon of milk or your eggs or whatever.

In fact that’s exactly what we are trying to do here at Shop on Main. To really figure out how to give the shopper the best of both worlds on the internet—the ‘shopping experience’ and the convenient transaction. As far as I can tell, no one else online has really tried to do that.

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For me, it’s about earning visitors’ trust. What will determine your success online is figuring out how to earn the trust of your website visitors as quickly as possible or at least earn their interest enough so they hang around long enough so you can build that trust.

To me, lack of trust is the number one thing that prevents sales online.

It’s also the reason why three and a half million businesses have joined Amazon.

An individual website has a very high trust hurdle. It’s similar to a store that might be in a bad neighborhood versus a store that’s in an up and coming shopping mall or neighborhood. In a place—a bigger place—that you trust. When you have a store in the best mall in town or on a prominent block, you automatically earn credibility right from the start.

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Joe: To me I think there’s a fairly dramatic difference between the shoppers of today and the shoppers of a few decades ago… What really creates this difference is the social medium. It has created shoppers who are really, really hungry for an experience.

Shoppers today have all the power (literally) in the palm of our hands. We’re the smartest shoppers that have ever existed. We have our phones. We can find the price of any item—the lowest price, the highest price, the best service—with one click. We have more power than we’ve ever had in the history of the world.

And yet ironically the experience is less than it’s ever been.
When I was growing up (and I’m not that old), my parents knew the person behind the deli counter on a first name basis. That one fact added a lot to the experience—and to the trust.

It’s not always easy to translate that online in a way that is scalable but we’re certainly going to try because we know that people are really hungry for that experience. I think that it’s a void that most people can’t quite put their finger on and they don’t quite know what it is but it’s there.

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Joe: It doesn’t matter what website you go to –whether its Newegg or Amazon or Target – they all look and feel the same. They’re all built for efficiency. Extreme, extreme efficiency.

It goes back to what I said about earlier. How do you bring trust and humanity to your web presence? Humans love to interact with other humans, so I would say bring that humanity into your website. Don’t make it just about a data base of products.

I would say spend a decent amount of your time in social media because that brings a lot of humanity to your business. Equally, you need to heavily weigh whether you want to build your own website or use another bigger platform. Whether that’s a platform like Shop on Main or something like Amazon or Shopify.

In many ways I think using a bigger platform is better than building out your own presence. When you build your own site, it’s like building a store that’s in the middle of the desert. I would much rather see you open a store in a new upcoming shopping center (i.e. put your store on a bigger platform). I think the days of having just millions and millions of stores in the middle of the desert are pretty much over because it doesn’t produce a great experience for the shopper.

In the end, you’re missing a huge opportunity if you are unable to control that shopper experience—one that everyone is hungry for. That experience can come in many forms including for example how people actually receive their purchased items.

It’s the experience which will separate you out from other businesses. It will be what makes people want to come back and shop at your store instead of hundreds of other ones.

What will separate you out from other businesses is the experience you offer. That is what will entice people to come back and shop at your store instead of hundreds of other ones.

The experience.

Your story.

Your humanity.

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