Supportsmouth: allowing Portsmouth businesses to sell gift cards online during COVID-19 lockdown
The week before the COVID-19 lockdown that came into effect on the 23rd March, I was seeing more and more social media posts from friends who run local businesses, worried about what this might mean for them. After listening to this, I created Supportsmouth: a free service for local companies to sell gift cards online.
Before the lockdown was even announced, it was clear to many businesses that they may be shut indefinitely. For someone like me who works online, and who already works from home, the changes have been no where near as significant and I wanted to use my skills to help those who were unable to continue to sell their products.
I initially offered my services on my personal Facebook profile, and a few people got in touch expressing their interest in being able to sell gift cards online, which is when I realised I would need something a bit more streamlined than simply trying to hack together a quick website for each business.
I teamed up with two of my closest friends, who also happen to be a fantastic designer (Karl March), and highly skilled developer (Nathan Gaskin) and we hashed out some ideas over a very late night, designing and developing on the fly.
We decided the best way forward would be to create a WordPress multisite, where the sites could be duplicated and easily re-branded and customised. Sounded simple enough, but was in fact a huge learning curve. Whilst you have the ability to run updates to one single theme across all sites, there’s still quite a lot of customisation that needs to happen, and the set up can be quite confusing if you haven’t used it before.
However, now it only takes about 1-2 hours to set up an individual site for each retailer (once we have the required information), which to me is fantastic considering the level of technical stuff going on behind the scenes.
We managed to put together both the main website, and the demo site and set up all the systems so we could easily manage a large influx of enquiries if that happened, and then we put it out there to the world!
We were a little overwhelmed with the enquiries we received as soon as we launched, as it got shared hundreds of times on Facebook. We’re currently working with those retailers who got in touch to get them set up. Our first one was launched recently, and is successfully selling gift cards already. You can check out Pebble Health & Beauty here.
We’re still happy to take on new retailers, so if you want to sell your gift cards online please do get in touch, or check out the original site to see how it all works. The service is free until the lockdown is over ☺️