St. Anthony: Minneapolis entrepreneur leads Shopify Network efforts for social and sustainable enterprises

Veteran software entrepreneur Chris Dykstra rolls around with his GoodCarts.

GoodCarts is a Shopify channel that connects retailers who are both “goal-driven and sustainable”.

GoodCarts, owned and integrated with Dykstra’s Warecorp, has so far linked through its app network around 400 e-commerce brands nationwide. It was widely exposed this month on a Shopify blog by GoodCarts CEO Steven Clift, a social enterprise veteran.

“The idea behind GoodCarts empowers people to make an impact by discovering new sustainable and ethical brands,” Clift wrote. “Like Shopify, GoodCarts is on a mission to make a difference. The end goal is to create a community of e-commerce retailers of sustainable, social impact products that empower people to shop for their values.”

When consumers buy something through a retailer in the GoodCarts network, they get an exclusive discount for another brand in the network.

Marketers have observed that consumers increasingly favor products and services that improve the environment and the human condition. This is a big reason why big box retailers sell them.

While some of these sustainable companies are big – think Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s or Patagonia – many are small, often run by women and funded on a shoestring budget.

Deloitte Insights in 2019 noted that “goal-driven companies experience higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors, while achieving higher employee and customer satisfaction.”

Companies, said Deloitte, also achieve “fidelity, consistency and relevance in consumers’ lives.”

GoodCarts offers a free service for now, including promotional coupons for its 400 retailer members, which helps grow business while avoiding the rising cost of Facebook ads. It is likely that Warecorp will eventually start charging small commissions or selling enhanced products and services to member retailers to regain revenue.

“GoodCarts builds a captive audience first by offering something of great value to our members,” Clift said. “In the meantime, we are developing products and services that serve our network of e-commerce brands.”

The GoodCarts coupon code is the most used Shopify discount for Carla Scholz, whose Soak It Up reusable sponge cloths are designed to replace 1,500 paper towels.

Since 2015 Joy McBrien’s Fair Anita has been selling jewelry, accessories and clothing made from recycled materials by poor women working in cooperatives in Latin America and Africa.

McBrien said she loves the GoodCarts model and the coupons are “like a bonus.”

“They were thrilled to partner with them and we saw some sales,” McBrien said. “I see a lot of potential. We focus on cooperation, especially with other social enterprises and fair trade businesses.”

Dykstra, 60, is an artist turned software jockey who concluded, on a 1980s trip to impoverished Nicaragua through the University of Augsburg’s Center for Global Education, that corporations should serve more than just owners. In the 1980s he built and sold a screen printing business. In the 1990s, he learned software skills and worked for web developers. He then worked in Europe for an outsourced software talent provider.

Dykstra launched Warecorp in 2004. Its revenue has reached approximately $5 million and has 80 employees in Minneapolis and Eastern Europe.

“We have a portfolio of growing and established businesses,” Dykstra said. “And we’re involved in startups, such as GoodCarts and the social impact world through the American Sustainable Network. I’m moving towards a president-type role.”

Jerome Hamilton, a seasoned manager, joined Warecorp as COO in 2019. Hamilton and Dykstra are also partners in Brown Venture Group, which has raised nearly $50 million to invest in black, Latino tech startups. -Americans and Native Americans.

Dykstra said he could eventually part ways with GoodCarts. Its mission aligns with its own philosophy that small, mission-aligned retailers can promote themselves better and more economically through networks, rather than increasingly expensive advertisements on platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Warecorp was making money with GoodCarts. But when the pandemic hit, Dykstra decided to stop collecting commissions. The network was a success with a 95% retention rate and “incredible click-through rate that is unprecedented in advertising.”

“The American Sustainable Network needs to do more transactions [with one another’s businesses]” Dykstra said. “Stop mortgaging your house to buy Facebook and Google ads. Use Facebook and Google to drive people to your website. Negotiate traffic. No one spends money, but everyone gets a new customer.”

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