Photo by Shelby Lum

Power Hour

Trivial yet necessary tasks eat up time, and errands – running to the store, getting groceries, remembering to pick up a gift – are complete and total time-crushers.

Whence, an app-based company, works in that very arena of time, but at the opposite end of the spectrum – giving it back.

Still in beta testing, the company picks up local goods from stores in your neighborhood and drops them to your door within 90 minutes if you are within a 17-mile radius of their Short North headquarters. The idea was a culmination of two different notions: how to make the perfect moments last and how to help local businesses. Founder Web Smith was lying in bed with his wife and daughters on a lazy Saturday morning, soaking in the precious minutes when life and family coincide, but something was tugging at the back of his mind, ruining his otherwise perfect memory.

“In that moment I was thinking, ‘Oh this is great. This is what life is all about,’” he said, “but I knew I had to go to the hardware store in the next 45 minutes to get ready for my day, so I had to cut that great experience short. It’s a shame that I have to do that instead of spend more time with my family.”

The other half of Whence’s inspiration is based on a more economic principle. “I noticed the pattern of slow foot traffic,” Smith said. “I wanted to solve that problem, like how to get more people through your doors…without having to advertise to them.”

Enter Whence. The company brings businesses more customers that otherwise aren’t stepping foot into the brick-and-mortar building. Many people are being exposed to stores around Columbus, local stores, that some don’t have access to or don’t even know about, through shopping with the app. “How can we deepen relationships within the community between businesses and consumers?” co-founder Jonathan Poma said.

The answer? An app aimed at helping consumers save time by axing tedious chores and shopping from to-do lists, while also helping bolster customer-bases for businesses. Thus far, the founders have said that every company that has teamed up with Whence has made more money than before. There aren’t fees, there aren’t stipulations.

“We don’t want there to be any downside for these brands right now,” Poma said.

Really, there doesn’t seem to be. Businesses both local and national are benefitting from Whence’s idea of instant gratification and same-day delivery. The goods aren’t just showing up at your door. With Whence, customers get a face and a product. Josh Quinn, co-owner of Tigertree, has had a few orders come through Whence since the beta launch on October 1, and said initially it took him a minute to truly “get” the idea. “Once I got it, I was pretty excited about it. I think the idea of bringing communities to the rest of the city is an interesting concept.”

Businesses both local and national are benefitting from Whence’s idea of instant gratification and same-day delivery by a real live person. The goods aren’t just showing up at your door. With Whence, customers get a face and a product.

Whence breaks down how shopping and economic commerce have begun to function, and is attempting to return Columbus (and any future markets) to a forgotten economic model. “We are definitely returning to a village economy,” Quinn said. “I think people like to know where their goods are coming from.”

“I believe that local economies and local vendors are everything to a city,” Smith added. “It gives a city its sort of voice, its character.”

Through that idea, everything becomes more personal and loops back to the customer that was at the core of the startup’s plan. With a swipe of the finger, you can pick out an item, pay for it, and then continue with your day. It’s that easy.

“The goal is to add more time to your day. I take that very seriously as a parent, as an entrepreneur,” Smith said.

While the app is still in its testing stages and invite-only, the Whence team is planning to continue upgrading the software until it is ready for full release during the first week of November.

“Time is few and far between,” Smith said. “If you can maximize that time by people taking things off your plate in one way shape or form then I think most people would be all for it.” 

To get your Whence invite, visit whence.co.

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