MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Coimatan; a unique word that describes a unique venture in the Twin Cities.
"It's a combination of the Greek and the English word for Community," described Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos.
That's exactly what she created at the start of the pandemic. Coimatan is an online community where small brick and mortar businesses can band together and connect with customers.
"I would say it came from concern it came from care and a love for our shops," explained Papanikolopoulos.
It started with two separate efforts: Minnesotans Unite and Save Twin Cities Eats, which offered gift cards to local businesses.
"Then grew and evolved to be more of a creative studio. Which is what we are now," said Papanikolopoulos.
Businesses collaborate and co-create products and experiences through Coimatan.
Kristin Kynch, the owner of doodle bird design + gifts, made key connections with Coimatan when her business shutdown at the start of the pandemic.
"Because my shop is all locally made products, in joining the organization I've made other artists who now sell their products in my store," said Kynch.
The collaboration is also leading to more exposure for her brand.
"We curated some celebration boxes which were online sales. Then also, we offered an in-store pickup. So that just brought people into the store as well," explained Kynch.
Right now there are 50 businesses connected through Coimatan and there's an online directory that includes more than a hundred BIPOC small businesses in our area.
"What we were seeing were a lot of different directories popping up. Some were made by really passionate locals, some were made by media and organizations," said Papanikolopoulos.
The Coimatan team compiled all of those resources and worked with Minneapolis Craft Market and its directory of makers to bundle it all up and make an easy reference for people.
"I think anybody these days is doubly interested in supporting local art and local businesses. Just because they know that small businesses are vital to our community and they want to keep them going," said Kynch.
The effort keeps growing, with the Art Unites Collection.
Coimatan co-created journals and stickers with six different artists, to see different perspectives and their meaning of community.
The products are sold at various Coimatan connected businesses.
More information about signing up for Coimatan's newsletter, and its lists and directories can be found here.