Rahman Wilder drives an Akron school bus by day and spends much of the rest of his time building his clothing business, We Care Tees.

We Care Tees was among 100 small businesses in Akron and Warren selected to take part in eBay Inc.’s first Retail Revival one-year program.

The Akron-based pilot program has come to what eBay and the merchants say is a successful end.

“I plan to continue to work with eBay,” Wilder said. “Just because the program ended doesn’t mean the relationship is gone.”

The Retail Revival program taught him how to be a better online merchant, he said.

“I was able to grow the business,” Wilder said. The 42-year-old Akron resident works with nonprofits on his clothing line, with a percentage of his profits going to the nonprofit organizations.

In a morning program at the Well on East Market Street to celebrate Retail Revival’s conclusion, Wilder was among local merchants who won awards — in his case, the Community Champion Award for “doing well by doing good.”

Retail Revival kicked off in January 2018 with great fanfare, with San Jose, California-based eBay saying it had selected Akron and Warren to test how the e-commerce and auction site can help small merchants become successful sellers on eBay’s platform. EBay Inc. President and CEO Devin Wenig came to Akron to formally launch the program at Northside Marketplace.

The program provided exclusive support, resources, and training to help the local small businesses market their products and services on eBay. Over the course of the yearlong program, the Akron-area businesses sold products and services in all 50 states and overseas.

Northside Market developer Joel Testa said Retail Revival brought success to the merchants at the small marketplace he put in next to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

“The vast majority of our vendors were part of the program,” he said.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said Retail Revival proved to be a perfect fit for the city and eBay.

“I’m excited about what’s going to come next,” he said.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin also praised the program.

“I first want to say how impressed we are with the whole project,” he said.

Based on the success in Northeast Ohio, eBay has introduced the one-year Retail Revival programs elsewhere in the United States and overseas, said Chris Librie, eBay's head of Global Impact & Giving who oversaw Retail Revival.

“We have just gone into our fifth city,” Librie said. “The pilot light has become a flame.”

The Akron program helped eBay refine Retail Revival, Librie said. For one, as members of the program worked with local merchants and entrepreneurs, they learned that they needed to move from webinar-based interactions to more one-on-one training, he said.

Librie said participants also learned the importance of differentiating themselves from competitors — that someone selling something like cosmetics or fashion, for instance, needed to have a stance.

“If you have a point of view, you stand out,” he said.

About 100 businesses started in Retail Revival, with about 70 remaining at the program’s conclusion, Librie said.

EBay will continue to support Akron merchants using its online platform, Librie said. EBay also has teamed up with a San Francisco-based online business community site called ALICE that will be able to provide the Ohio businesses with many of the concierge-like services Retail Revival offered, he said.

Michael Simcox, head of Express Furniture on East Tallmadge Avenue, said his flat-pack furniture business benefited from the Retail Revival training.

Express Furniture sells Sauder and other brands. Simcox said Retail Revival helped him learn more about digital advertising and also the importance of being able to provide free shipping, he said.

“I’m old school trying to learn new tricks,” he said.

 

Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ