For Sabrina Kucevic, Westchester’s hottest new directory site began during a search for soccer equipment. “I became fed up when I traveled to Connecticut searching for a soccer shop, only to discover a few weeks later that there was one in New Rochelle,” shares Kucevic, who adds that the owner of the shop decided against online marketing due to its costs. “I wondered how many other small businesses face this same dilemma, and that’s when I decided to create one platform for all of the county where every small business has the opportunity to be discovered.”
This one platform is 914 Insider, a directory website aimed at pairing consumers with Westchester’s small businesses. “914 Insider’s mission is to create an easy option for residents to quickly and easily find local small businesses providing the services or products they are searching for, while supporting those businesses by offering an advertising option that is totally free,” explains Kucevic.
Kucevic notes that it was the outsize competition between massive retailers and mom-and-pop shops that spurred her to produce the site. “I created 914 Insider because it has become harder and harder to find local businesses using typical search engines,” she says. “Its a pay-to-play world to be discovered online. Small businesses are competing with the huge marketing budgets of online retailers and big box chain stores. To even rank [on web searches] is something most small businesses just cannot afford, giving local residents limited options in search results.”
Kucevic, a Bronx native, felt Westchester was the ideal location due to several factors. “I see more and more “For Rent” signs on shop windows. Most either stay vacant or are replaced with the box chain stores,” notes Kucevic, who hopes that 914 Insider will bolster sales at mom-and-pop shops.
She adds that with more than 42 towns and villages in Westchester, it can also be difficult to know which businesses a consumer is missing out on. Exploring neighboring towns can be time-consuming and is often incompatible with our busy modern lifestyles. Kucevic explains that 914 Insider allows users to easily search such low-profile businesses throughout the county.
One of Kucevic’s biggest hurdles thus far has been explaining to clients that the service is indeed free. “Businesses are skeptical of a free service,” she says. “Most have had some bad experiences with salespeople promoting free advertising with commission fees… I just never imagined any business would refuse a free service, but after hearing stories from some businesses I can understand. This has been our biggest hurdle.”
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Despite any stumbling blocks, 914 Insider has been expending its services as well as its reach. The site currently offers several features, including multiple search options, the ability to follow and receive notifications from businesses, and the ability to locate promotions. Kucevic has been growing her site through word of mouth and social media. They have thus far had more than 11,000 page views from users searching for local businesses, with some level of growth each succeeding month.
And as for generating revenue, Kucevic maintains that small businesses and the site’s users will never be tapped for company profits. “We expect to add to programs that will generate revenue to keep the site up and running,” says Kucevic. “Those programs are national sponsors — such as Sprint, Verizon, and Pepsi — sold within Westchester County by local businesses, and ads of local real estate listings to be paid subscriptions, similar to Craigslist. All other features will be free for both users and small businesses.”