'Shop local' sentiment spurs Portland startup
By Mason Walker, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Large businesses have extensive marketing tools at their disposal. One notable innovation that has been employed is the rewards card. Rewards cards offer user-friendly incentives while precisely tracking buying habits. But because of the high technology costs associated with them, the benefits of the electronic rewards card hasn't yet infiltrated small business.
Enter Supportland LLC, a Web-based rewards card accepted at a network of locally owned businesses. Currently in beta testing, the program will be formally introduced to consumers across Portland this spring.
The company is the effort of the husband-and-wife team of Michael and Katrina Scotto di Carlo of North Portland. The concept was hatched a few years ago, while Michael Scotto di Carlo was a tenured professor at Clark College. As the idea progressed, Scotto di Carlo left his teaching position to work on Supportland full time. The couple have bootstrapped the project thus far.
Supportland is a local currency — one that complements legal tender and seeks to encourage local spending by offering a regionally exclusive trade medium. In order to participate, businesses must meet criteria established by Portland's Sustainable Business Network. Implications include being locally owned, and adhering to the values of sustainable business as defined by the network.
There is no physical backing of the currency. Like traditional reward cards, the exchange occurs electronically in the form of "points." The rewards points work in two directions: business to consumer and consumer to business. A business can offer points when a specific item or service is purchased. In addition, a business can offer an item or service in exchange for points. Points are introduced through new businesses that sign up with Supportland. The system is closed, so points hold no monetary value.
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