Supporting Today, Gathering Later
Two South Florida locals build Gather Later, a site to make it easier for locals to support small businesses
As an emergency management consultant, Lauren Linville has seen firsthand how catastrophic events hurt communities. And as the daughter of small business owners, she’s seen how these events hurt local economies.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most South Florida businesses, Linville encouraged everyone she knew to order from local businesses and buy gift cards from them.
“Small businesses are the heartbeat of the communities,” the Coconut Creek resident says. “They are the ones that are out there sponsoring Little League, hosting nonprofits and events, creating gift baskets or things to put in gift baskets. They have always supported us. It’s our turn to support them.”
But in asking others to support business, Linville realized that it would be easier for locals to have a centralized resource to turn to.
“Everyone is building Facebook pages,” Linville says, “but people are posting in different areas and not everything is being shared with everybody.”
She turned to friend Robin Verse, marketing professional from Boca Raton, to see how they could build this resource together. In the following weeks, they built Gather Later, a website connecting patrons to local businesses to buy gift cards and see current promotions. Verse built the design components and her husband did the coding and developing. They built it side-by-side—while working full-time from home.
“The idea behind it for us was that if we could help make one more light bill or one more paycheck and keep them afloat during this time, that’s something that that we’d love to be able to contribute to,” Verse says.
To be included, small business owners can sign up for approval to be featured (Linville and Verse are approving each business individually) and even include their current promotions. When users search for businesses, they are taken straight to the business websites. Gather Later’s cost-free model demonstrates Linville and Verse’s goals to support businesses.
“A couple folks that I’ve been talking to [say], ‘I wanted to put this on [similar sites], but there was a fee to sign up, or they’re going to take a percentage of whatever consumers bought,’” Linville says. “I just thought that’s so wrong during this time. This is about coming together and helping one another out and supporting each other. We don’t need to burden these small businesses right now. We need to help them.”
Linville and Verse are growing Gather Later, which went live earlier this week, by calling local businesses. Though they’re starting with the Coconut Creek and Coral Springs areas, there’s room to grow in the future.
“This is definitely a fluid, changing site,” Verse says. “As we get reactions from consumers and businesses, we’re constantly adjusting. We initially started out with just Broward County and then we got a lot of feedback outside of Broward County, saying, ‘I’d love to sign up to the site.’ … So we’ve opened it up for all of Florida, but we’re really looking at the South Florida tri-county area because we’ve got connections here … and then we can expand.”
Visit Gather Later here.
Pictured above: Lauren Linville and Robin Verse