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Squaredeal is an online market that showcases the work of artists in the Central Texas corridor. Graphic from Squaredeal.app

Buying Better

Rewriting the narrative for what it means to buy locally
Sunday, April 11, 2021

Last March, in response to a growing need for connectivity and commerce within the Central Texas corridor, Davis and Patton Jones launched Squaredeal CTX, a digital marketplace for local artists to sell their goods online.

“It really started from the realization that there’s really no place for Central Texans to buy and sell locally made handmade goods all in one place,” said Jack Eltife, marketing and brand manager for Squaredeal CTX. “With COVID, it became more apparent that there needs to be a place where people can rely on their neighbors.”

From there, the Patton brothers — who grew up in Austin — dreamed up a plan that would help the communities between North Austin and South San Antonio become more connected while preserving the unique culture of the small towns within the corridor.

As the Squaredeal landing page says, “We are like a digital farmer’s market that is always on,” and Eltife, who has lived in and loved Austin for the last eight years, adds, “Farmer’s Markets are such a great place to meet people within the community and get to know the people you’re buying from… This is going to provide that, 24-7.”

The driving force behind Squaredeal CTX is neighbor-to-neighbor commerce, allowing local businesses, makers and creatives to buy and sell their work in a centralized location while supporting already established markets within the community, specifically Central Texas, or CTX.

“We only focus within the corridor,” Eltife explained. “The idea behind that is we have ATX, and we have SA, but we wanted to build this platform where we bring all these communities in between together, where we can all help each other and rely on one another.”

In this way, Squaredeal hopes to benefit the smaller towns that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle between the larger cities that bracket the Corridor. “It’s really about bringing everyone together and building this big community,” Eltife said. “Central Texans are strong and resilient. The symbol CTX is about bringing together the rich tradition of Central Texas, the resilience, the grit, the diversity and the hope that the future holds for our region. It’s really about bringing everyone together and building this big community. That’s what we are.”

In addition to acting as an online marketplace, Squaredeal CTX offers an alternative to small businesses in the area that either don’t have an online presence or that wishes to expand their ecommerce within a larger network. For many local makers and businesses, the idea of going online can seem cost prohibitive and daunting, which is where Squaredeal CTX can provide assistance.

“First and foremost,” Eltife said, “it’s so important to be online. If you’re not online, it’s hard to compete. We need a place where we can buy better.” Eltife said that many local makers don’t know how to get started or even where to look.

“Or they didn’t have the financial resources to get started,” Eltife said. “We’re hoping to give them the resources so that they can grow into the potential they already have.”

Signing up for a Maker’s page on Squaredeal.com is free, and there is a 5% transaction fee for anything bought within Squaredeal CTX organically.

“It takes about 20 seconds to get on,” Eltife explained. “The makers decide all the logistics of how they want to see their product. When they list, they get a maker code. It’s as simple as a link. If you share that link with someone who wants to buy your product, we don’t take anything from that. If the maker generates the sale, they keep everything. We really want to emphasize that this is not about us making money,” said Eltife. “We take a cut to pay our employees, but the rest goes back into remarketing and advertising their business.”

An additional bonus for brick-and-mortar stores is that Squaredeal CTX is not mutually exclusive. “The key is that we’re your business partner,” Eltife said. “We want to provide you with another resource to grow your business, or to find whatever it is you’re looking for. This isn’t something where you have to do this only.”

Eltife, who has an undergraduate degree in corporate communications and will soon graduate with a Master’s in Advertising from the University of Texas, attributes his inspiration for Squaredeal CTX to his passion for the culture of the Corridor. “I’ve truly fallen in love with the unique culture and the music and the food and just everything that is so special to Central Texas,” he said. “It’s really about preserving everything that’s so special about Central Texas. It truly is one of the most unique and diverse cultures. There needs to be a place where all of that can live.”

Currently, Squaredeal CTX is working with an art center in Buda called Inspired Minds. By using their region-centric connections and technology, Squaredeal is able to give Inspired Minds an online presence. As of April 16, they will digitize the Inspired Minds gift show, allowing the center to showcase their art.

“All their inventory will be online, completely alleviating the need to manage that,” Eltife said. “All the transactions will flow through CTX, whether it’s in-store or online. It’s all merged into one.”

In the future, the Squaredeal CTX also hopes to expand into offering classes and life shows through the online market. “There’s a lot of room for growth,” he said. “If you’re a yoga instructor and you want to do classes in your backyard, you can do that. We want to rewrite the narrative for what it means to buy locally.”

As Squaredeal CTX grows, the company will have opportunities for further community involvement along the way. “There are interesting new ways of diversifying the ownership base of startups like ours,” Eltife said. “And we are planning to invite broad, public ownership of CTX in the future.”

But key to the Squaredeal CTX mission is its connection to the community with the specific hope for preserving the unique culture at its heart.

“It’s about keeping the unique culture of Central Texas unique,” Eltife said. “It’s for everyone. Everyone deserves a voice and a place where they can share their creations. We want to offer everything that’s unique about our culture, from handmade goods to homemade foods, to classes, to music, to concerts. I’m really excited for what we can offer everyone.”

To create an online Squaredeal storefront or browse local vendors, check out their website at Squaredeal.com

“The symbol CTX is about bringing together the rich tradition of Central Texas, the resilience, the grit, the diversity and the hope that the future holds for our region. It’s really about bringing everyone together and building this big community. That’s what we are.

Jack Eltife, Squaredeal CTX

San Marcos Record

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