The mom marketplace
Area moms networking for deals, support
WHITTEMORE — What started as a local Facebook group to connect area mothers has blossomed into a place where many go to sell, buy and trade items.
Amanda Unkel of Twining said she started the Mom2MomIAO Facebook group in the fall of 2011 after using similar sites to find items and support while out of state.
“I lived out of state for a short amount of time,” Unkel said. “While I was gone, I didn’t have a lot of support like I do here. And I realized that I still needed that when I was gone.”
Unkel said she used mom groups in the area she lived in while she was out of state, and found them to be helpful for getting information and selling and purchasing items.
“I didn’t have the connections of support that parents need,” she said. “You ask advice all the time because things change. Everyone’s parenting advice is different.”
When she returned home, Unkel said she decided to start her own group, and she enlisted the help of Wendy Sue Colvin of Whittemore to help her run it.
Unkel said she originally started the site to sell some of her daughter’s clothing.
“My first big thing was, my daughter is a little diva and she loves clothes,” she said. “We had so many clothes. So I started selling them. Then I started branching out.”
And the group had amazing growth in its early months, Unkel said.
“We went from zero to 1,000 so fast, it was crazy,” she said.
“To get to 2,000, it was kind of slower,” Colvin added.
The group had 2,163 members as of Jan. 11, just a little more than a year after it started. And the two said it was more work than they initially thought it would be.
“It was overwhelming,” Unkel said. “We both spend a lot of time cleaning up the site.”
One way they’ve made it easier to manage is to try and keep the site organized. Different types of items have their own photo album, so people can look for items from a certain category instead of having to sift through everything.
And there are a lot of different types of items.
“People were getting rid of pets,” Unkel said. “So we thought, ‘We should probably have an album for this.’ It’s great because then (the animals) aren’t going to our pounds.”
People have also sold or rented houses through the group, among other things.
“People are selling cars and trying to rent houses out,” Unkel said. “We understand people are looking for housing. Why not use the connections to try and reach people? Facebook has brought so many great things to our community.”
And Colvin said the group is much more than a marketplace. There’s a social aspect as well.
“There’s a lot of women who have said they met new friends (because of the group),” Colvin said. “When you do buy and sell (events) you make friendships. Some girls hang out now because of meeting each other on this site.”
“When you’re a single parent, you’re so busy at home, you don’t have time to socialize,” Colvin said. “So there’s a tad bit of socialization going on too.”
From the Facebook page, the two have begun holding mom-to-mom sales at the Whittemore Chamber of Commerce. They said they plan to hold them monthly this year. Admission to the sale is free, though a $7 fee is charged for those looking to have a table to sell items. That money goes to the Whittemore Chamber of Commerce, which Unkel said has been struggling finanically. Tables must be reserved in advance.
The first event for this year is Jan. 26, and the sales will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
So far, Unkel said, the response to the sales has been good.
“We’ve had five,” she said. “Our biggest turnout was more than 700 people. They’ve ranged from 200 to 700. It’s hard to guess how many people are going to come.”
Unkel said people can sell just about anything, but they want to keep it child-friendly.
“We wouldn’t allow guns or knives or hunting gear,” she said.
The Whittemore-Prescott special education department also runs a concession stand during the event, with funds raised going back into the program.
The two said they are hoping to start a farmers market this year as well.
“I never expected it to turn out like it did,” Unkel said of the group. “It’s a rural area. We didn’t expect that kind of activity.”
The group can be found at www.facebook.com/groups/mom2momiao. It serves Iosco, Arenac and Ogemaw counties, though it isn’t limited to people from those counties.
“We have group members from Oscoda and Mio,” Unkel said. “People from Bay City shop on our site. Someone told me they heard about it in Saginaw.”
They said parents should visit the group to see what it is all about.
“If you’re a mom or dad, or there’s a child in your life, you should check it out,” Colvin said.
For more information about the group, contact Amanda Unkel at 989-329-1314, or Wendy Sue Colvin at 989-756-5044.