DLSH.com is a startup online marketplace that connects yummy farmers and food crafters with hungry food loving consumers from all across the country . DLSH offers foodie fans the opportunity to purchase a variety of food products from different geographical regions at all time throughout the year. For farmers and food crafters, DLSH provides a secure platform to share their stories and supplement their current physical sales, extending their geographic exposure and customer audience. Physical market vendors are often constrained by the traditional farmers’ market season. For example, the popular South of Washington (SoWa) Open Market in Boston, Massachusetts, occurs on Sunday afternoons from the first of May to the end of October . For strictly fresh produce growers, this seasonality makes good sense and works just fine. According to the USDA, “144,530 farmers sold $1.3 billion” in fresh produce directly to consumers through farmers’ markets, roadside stands, u-pick operations, and community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements in 2012. However, the seasonal timeline limits farmers and food crafters that specialize in less perishable items such as jarred, pickled, and canned fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, DLSH helps vendors who concentrate in nuts, honey, jerky, coffee, teas, spices, and other less seasonal products to extend their formerly limited selling period beyond the warm months. If regular market visitors are busy one Sunday afternoon, they can now have the opportunity to engage with their favorite physical market vendors on DLSH. Furthermore, after October, the temperature can get quite cold outside for the consumers! Thanks to DLSH, foodie fans can now purchase their local and regional goodies from the warm of their cozy couches.
DLSH designed its platform according to the theme of a farmers market (of course). Vendors setup their own DLSH digital booths (see right) to house their products, store details, photos, and contact information. These booths have unique web addresses that vendors can share with their physical market customers and networks. Also, vendors can describe their background in “About Us” section, and they also have an option to post updates or share their upcoming physical market locations in the “Booth News” bar, increasing potential touch points among network participants. For example, Lara’s Cuisine (a New England vendor) uses the “About Us” section to detail its founder’s journey from growing up in Italy to cooking and selling authentic Italian pesto in Massachusetts .
The DLSH homepage highlights new, bestselling, and featured products . For vendors without e-commerce websites, DLSH provides a secure transaction platform for them to market and sell their goods online. For vendors with existing websites, DLSH can provide supplemental income and increased consumer exposure from its trafficked marketplace for growing sales and sharing stories. These small businesses do not often receive press or publicity.Thus, DLSH representatives travel the country in search of high quality and delicious farmers and food crafters to interview for its vendor blog, where DLSH highlights personal stories, entrepreneurial journeys, and small business insights. This content development benefits both sides of the market. The vendors are proud to share their articles with friends, families, and customers, and DLSH benefits from the increased traffic and time spent on the platform. Additionally, consumers have the opportunity to learn about and engage with the farmers through social media links and vendor contact information.
Can DLSH grow at a sustainable rate to satisfy both sides of the marketplace? Too many vendors and not enough consumers can discourage vendors. Also, an imbalance of consumers to vendors could cause consumers to lose interest in the platform due to variety frustrations. As it scales up, DLSH must ensure that it continues to recruit high quality vendors in both taste and food safety. Poor quality products may literally put a bad taste in consumers’ mouths and damage the platform’s reputation.
To increase user stickiness and knowledge exchange, DLSH should expand on its “Food Forum” initiative, designed for vendors and consumers to share recipes, physical market vendor tips, cottage laws, regulatory information, and other experiential tips . Building on this resource can help DLSH deepen the platform’s community engagement, and increased user generated content can keep DLSH as a relevant resource while boosting the platform’s network effect. Lastly, DLSH can grow its network from mutually beneficial social media relationships with vendors marketing their booths and DLSH promoting vendors’ profiles across its network of foodie fans and followers.