CEO Weekends:Hellopretty.co.za Making Online Shopping pretty Easy

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helloprettySouth Africa’s Hello Pretty is an online marketplace allowing shoppers to buy directly from top designers and creatives in the country. Founded by Samantha Marx, Adeline, and Scott about a year ago, Hello Pretty wants to connect people to amazing designs available in every city locally and internationally.

Hello Pretty is a platform for designers to create and manage their own individual online store; and for buyers to browse and buy local design. The portal has provided a platform for designers to create and maintain their own online store, as well as stock and order management tools, and many more interesting things under the hood.

TechMoran caught up with Hello Pretty’s Samantha Marx and here is what she told us about the platform.

How do you run the shop plus manage blogging, it looks tedious to us?

Not in the slightest! I feel really lucky that I get to do something I love every day, and it’s really enriching to interact with our designers and customers. As far as the blog goes, we all have a hand in it – but when part of your job is sourcing beautiful and interesting things to write about, you can’t really complain.

How many sellers, buyers and items sold so far?

We’re rapidly approaching 500 active sellers and get several new applications every day. So many amazing people creating amazing things! We’ve been really lucky in that we’ve consistently grown in terms of customers and sales at a rate of about 15-20% per month since our official launch.

How do you make money?

There are two ways for us to make money, tied to the two plans that designers can choose from when they join: Either they can hold a free store on Hello Pretty, with a limited amount of stock, and we take commission from sales; or they pay us a small monthly membership fee and a much lower commission.

Where do you want to be in the next five years?

The dream is for Hello Pretty to have gone from strength to strength, and have created a large, vibrant, self-sustaining business and design community.

What have been your greatest challenges and how did you solve them?

Small business owners in South Africa: We feel your pain. By far the biggest challenge is dealing with the admin and bureaucracy that comes with starting a business. Everything from registering the business to opening an account is an unnecessarily complicated (and usually very long!) process. Another huge challenge is just getting your name out there – online shopping is still a pretty new concept to many South Africans, so it’s been a lot of work getting people to know and trust us.

How unique are you from the competition?

I’d say our biggest difference is that we’re very open, both in terms of the site and in terms of our policies for designers. We’ve never tried to niche ourselves – as long as it’s beautiful design, we will sell it. And we’ve never tried to fence our designers in by insisting on exclusivity or  charging them the earth. We believe that the only way the business will work for us, is if it works for them.

If you weren’t doing this, what on earth will you be up to?

Travelling the world, and buying too many pairs of shoes!

Any expansion plans-out of Cape Town, or SA?

Obviously, the ultimate goal is world domination! We’re already active across all of South Africa – we have buyers and sellers from big cities and tiny dorpies, and many international buyers. Ultimately, we’d like to be a platform for design across Africa, but right now we’re focusing on building a rock solid foundation for the South African design community.

Any upcoming features, developments on your site, company, clients etc?

Always. The site is constantly evolving and growing, so there’s something new quite literally every day. We’re currently busy working on adding more of a “community” feel to the site that’ll allow buyers to leave reviews on sellers, and have forums for designers to share information. We’re also involved in SA Fashion Week at the moment, and there are more cool projects in the pipelines, so stay tuned!

Is eCommerce catching up in your region?

Absolutely, and it can’t happen fast enough. South Africans are slowly but surely realising the massive advantages there are to shopping online, and there are more and more sites to facilitate that.

How is delivery in South Africa-does it need improvements?

Let’s say that “improvements” is a very delicate way of putting it! We’ve been fortunate enough to work with people who are dedicated and motivated, but there are always going to be individuals or companies who simply don’t try hard enough. If you want your business to work, you absolutely have to give it your all – simple as that.

Which month is your best in terms of sales in the year?

This past month. And hopefully, that will be true for every month in the future! Since we’re still so new, and still growing, it’s hard to say. But November certainly stood out since everyone was getting their Christmas shopping in.

hellopHow is it being a girl company?

I wouldn’t know if it feels any different, to be honest. Sadly, there are still people in this day and age who don’t take you seriously as a female entrepreneur, but we think our success speaks for itself. When it comes down to it, if you’re running a business, you have more important things to think about than what people think of your gender.

What would you tell those girls who want to start out but feel inadequate?

It might sound like a huge cliché, but the reality is that you just have to keep trying. Find what you love doing, and keep doing it. Work, and work, and work, and do whatever you have to to get people to notice you. If your product is good, once you have that first foot in the door, it will do the work for you. This goes for guys as well!