Online business is booming, just ask Bainbridge Island

Online business is booming, just ask Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island Mayor Steve Bonkowski, Darcy Nothnagle with Google, and Congressman Derek Kilmer at Bon Bon Confections. (Photo courtesy Google)

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. -- The store may only be 800 square feet but Lisa Dunlap, owner of Bon Bon Confections, isn't about to let size hold her business back. Just ask one of her many customers in 49 states across the county whose taste buds simply can't resist her fudge.
"After two years I created a website," Dunlap says. "I was amazed at how much more internet business I was getting, especially around the holidays."
In the last five years, with help from those online sales, Dunlap's business has grown 300 percent. Now, the candy shop owner, along with a number of other local businesses are basking in their internet success - recently learning that Bainbridge Island is one of the country's strongest online business communities, according to Google.

 "It's fantastic," says Andrea Mackin, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association. "We have always known our storefronts have a really strong brick and mortar presence but I don't think people really understood what strong ecommerce presence our businesses have worked to develop as well."

Google recently released its list of 2013 eCity Award recipients, which recognize a city or town in every state where business owners are embracing the web to grow sales and the local economy.
The internet search engine, with help from an independent research firm, looked at a number of factors, including how a city's businesses use the web to find new customers, connect with existing customers, utilize social media, and mobile tools to determine where the 'Digital Capital' is in each state.
"Bainbridge Island came out with the highest score," says Darcy Nothnagle, external affairs manager for Google. "What's interesting to note, overall in Washington State more than half of the small businesses don't have website at all. So to have a community where businesses are racing to the web is a big deal."
Dunlap isn't surprised by the results. She says with or without a storefront local business owners on Bainbridge have to find creative ways to build a strong customer base and the internet plays a key role.
"On an island you have to take every opportunity possible," she says.
This is the first year Google announced its eCity Awards. A ceremony was held at Dunlap's store onFriday to present the award to the city and the mayor.