Buy Oh My

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Brooklyn is full of small scrappy businesses that operate using unconventional business models, whether you’re talking an online media business, like us here at Brooklyn Based, or a more traditional cash-for-goods joint, like SCRATCHbread, that can avoid the expense of a storefront by selling at venues like the Brooklyn Flea or the Greenpoint Food Market. As as result, it’s also becoming an incubator for creative tech businesses that offer tools and support for small ventures, like the text based point-of-sale service Subports.

Point of sale may sound like the least sexy business term ever, but Subports is combining sales with social networking and savvy marketing in way that may well change the way we purchase everything from sunglasses to concert tickets. The concept is simple–you sign up online with Subports to register your cellphone and credit card and then text a “subcode” to purchase items from stores and venues, like Franklin Avenue’s Alter and Kill Devil Hill. Subports’ site includes an online store featuring creative merchants from around the borough and beyond, and participating vendors also make it possible to purchase items via your cellphone at markets, like last weekend’s Renegade Craft Fair in McCarren Park. They also have a music project in the works where users can text a subcode to download songs.

“I hate to use this term, but we push the boundaries of what it means to be a store,” says Will Robison, one of the company’s founders. Vendors not only make it easier for customers to purchase their items–paying with your cellphone has got to be the ultimate in impulse buying–they also create an interesting experience. “It’s so unique that people often go and tell the story of how they bought something,” he explains.

The service is free to both vendors and purchasers, and their business model is still evolving, “like Facebook or Twitter,” Robison explains.

But Subports isn’t just another way to buy stuff. “We want people to enjoy and participate,” says Katie Crosswhite, who helped start the company along with Robison and Jacob Krupnick. Last fall they launched a project they deemed a “retail experiment” called Bookstore. Street vendors in New York need hard-to-get permits to sell anything other than art or printed material. Subports placed objects for sale inside specially designed books, like the one above, intended to skirt the letter of the law, and sold them streetside using subcodes. A portion of the profits went to the Street Vendor Project. They’re planning another Bookstore for this summer.

In July, Subports will be the sole ticketing service for Scope Art Show in the Hamptons. All attendees will be signed up and ready to add to their collections via text.

And don’t worry if you’re still rocking a flip phone from 2005, Subports uses SMS technology, not a proprietary, or buggy, app. “We’re for the people,” says Crosswhite. “we’re not smartphone snobby.”

Sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Subports.

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