This Internet-based direct marketing tool is designed to put buyers and sellers of food items on the same page to help save time and energy.
“MarketMaker serves as a central clearinghouse for commercial seafood products and specialty crops,” said Westra. “So if you’re a buyer and you want blueberries, you can locate those growers.”
When visiting the site it’s easy to see that progressive marketers have found a place to feature their items for sale, and those looking for specific food items spend a lot less time on the hunt.
“We wanted to provide a place to put those looking for specific food items in touch with those who sell those items,” Hinson said. “Sellers need to be registered to sell on the site, but not buyers.”
The idea for MarketMaker began with some employees at the University of Illinois trying to improve the marketing situation for livestock producers.
“They were trying to help producers get a better price for their product and help them increase the amount of beef and other products they were selling,” Westra said.
Hinson said they knew they had livestock producers who had specialty products like grass-fed or organic beef, but they couldn’t find any way to reach the market so people knew it was different.
“So they created MarketMaker about 10 years ago to help with the problem,” Hinson said. “Then in 2004, they went live with the site for public use.”
Hinson and Westra heard about the success and decided a few years ago to bring it to Louisiana.
“Part of the value of MarketMaker is it has this demographic and food preference type information that’s good for sellers,” Westra said. “Plus, it has Google maps to show areas of different groups, income levels and other helpful information.”
There is no fee to use the site as either a buyer or seller. Users do not buy or sell directly through MarketMaker; they use the system to identify, locate and begin interacting with each other so they can make the market themselves, Hinson said.
Funding was originally from the Louisiana Recovery Authority and is now administered by the Louisiana Division of Administration, Office of Community Development.
MarketMaker is now serving buyers and sellers in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Westra said you should be using MarketMaker, “because you can find a whole host of different locally produced fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, herbs, honey, you name it,” he said.