Gilbert Kimutai, the founder Vouch says, “Our mission is to empower the many small scale businesses in Africa who lack a proper way to market their authentic items. We aim to be the largest market place for handmade items by offering a huge collection of high quality handmade products.”
The online market place for selling and buying handmade items will be the platform for designers, artisans and craft makers to sell and market their authentic goods to a larger online audience. The site aims to provide a broad online market in Kenya and across Africa. The firm will however have to compete Soko, another startup that launched in Kenya with a stong US presence and recently raised a substantial amount of seed funding.
A 2010 report said Etsy saw $400 million worth of business that year, of that $400 million, Etsy made $30-$50 million in revenue via listing fees, processing fees, and featured display for wares. Build to be Africa’s Etsy, Vouch aims to make money in a similar way and has signed up over 30 artisans in Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria and is still reaching out to more artisans who are on social media and at artisan centres and markets to have as much as 50 by their July 30 launch.
Kimutai says the biggest problem is shipping for orders out of Nairobi but the firm is trying to work out a way of reaching out to buyers outside the continent and are working on partnerships and friends in the US to make shipping easier. Though similar to Etsy, the firm says Etsy has little interest in fully expanding into Africa in the near future and because Vouch allows anyone to launch a shop ad sell their artisans online, Soko is not a competition, Kimutai says as it has pre-vetted artisans and artisans groups. Soko also strongly focuses on empowering women. Vouch is purely an open marketplace for any artisan to sell their wares online at a fee of Ksh 1500 a month or a free trial and a bit of commision on every sale.
Nigeria’s Wowward is also building a similar platform.