GREENVILLE – An NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM partner is coordinating a virtual event that will provide North Carolinians an opportunity to shop rural and shop local, supporting the state’s economy and its small business entrepreneurs ahead of the winter holidays.

The virtual event, ShopRuralDay, is organized to be a half-day shopping “festival” that supports North Carolina’s small business entrepreneurs and gives shoppers a chance to get special deals and new products, noted event organizer Dennis Tracz in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

As many as 250 small businesses and entrepreneurs based in North Carolina are expected to participate in the event, which will occur between 12 p.m. noon and 12 p.m. midnight on November 11, 2021, using technology platform Popshop.Live.

“We wanted to provide a convenient date for the event before holiday shopping season starts,” said Dennis Tracz, who is also the director of Accelerate Rural NC, a 10-week rural business accelerator that works to help small businesses in North Carolina gain access to global markets and develop innovative products. 

“Many consumers are off work for Veterans Day so we thought this was a good date,” added Tracz.

Some 60 companies have already confirmed participation in the shopping event.  Tracz noted that more slots are available and that there is no upfront cost to merchants wishing to participate in the event, adding that, in most cases, technology partners will provide no-cost or low-cost shipping for participating companies.

Spurring high-tech entrepreneurship in rural North Carolina

Tracz told WRAL TechWire that the ShopRuralDay event is open for all businesses based in North Carolina that operate in or sell in rural parts of the state, or who are based in the state and are interested in an e-commerce opportunity that could have global reach.

Many of those 60 companies are ones that have a prior relationship with in the Accelerate Rural program, but participation is not limited to cohort companies or applicants to that program, Tracz confirmed to WRAL TechWire.

Tracz noted that about 125 companies have applied to the program, which grants 20 cohort spots for each 10-week accelerator.  About 100 companies have completed the program thus far, Tracz said.

“A lot of value-added food people,” said Tracz.  “A lot of them are trying to go direct to consumer, because they’ve lost their restaurant business or something else.”

The idea for ShopRuralDay came from observing that many food entrepreneurs have high-quality products, but lack the infrastructure or funding needed to set up and execute on e-commerce delivery channels, said Tracz.

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“This gives people the opportunity to compete,” said Tracz.  “I’m very optimistic in using this format to help these small businesses compete.”

One program participant that completed the accelerator opened an e-commerce channel and now sells grass-fed beef products in Alaska, a growing profit center for the company, Tracz noted.

41% of cohort companies are led by at least one woman or person who identifies as a person of color, Tracz said.  “It’s not just technology guys,” he added.

The Accelerate Rural NC program is supported by an NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant.