MOSAIC picture: Will 'e-tailing' be lovelier the second time around?
With the growing use of crowdfunding and the growing acceptance of e-commerce, Chioma Amegashie is making a couple of bets — but perhaps her biggest wager is on herself.
The UW–Madison Business School graduate has initiated a crowdfunding campaign to re-launch her Internet-based business, ShopMosaiconline.com, or MOSAIC for short. With 27 days remaining in her “raise,” her goal is to come up with $20,000 (of her overall goal of $50,000) in startup capital through Fundable.com.
Crowdfunding is now a $35 billion industry and no less an authority than Forbes.com has reported that 2016 is the year it will surpass venture capital financing. Amegashie isn’t content to simply go along with the crowd; she’s planning to use this fundraising method as a viable way to re-launch a business that might have started before its time. Amegashie chose Fundable.com over crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo because it’s geared toward small businesses.
Amegashie has 20 years of experience in retail, including as a buyer sourcing a variety of products from Hong Kong, India, Europe, and other international locales. Her first attempt at a strictly e-commerce retail business began in late 2007, but consumer acceptance wasn’t quite at the level it is now. The e-commerce industry still represents less than 10% of total retail purchases, but Amegashie believes it’s on the cusp of a strong growth phase.
She might be onto something because online sales have begun to outperform brick-and-mortar stores. According to the analytics firm RetailNext, sales figures show that on Thanksgiving Day online sales were up 25% over a year ago, while store sales were down on both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. That’s due in part to the fact that fewer large chains were open on Thanksgiving Day, but a key finding is that mobile sales, led by smartphone purchases, topped desktop shopping for the first time.
Over the next five years, Amegashie expects global consumers to make more online purchases as Internet traffic continues to increase due to greater connectivity and the growth of social media. “There is a shift and I’m seeing that constantly in terms of consumer acceptance of that [e-commerce] vehicle as being a viable way to shop,” Amegashie notes. “It’s 10% now and industry experts expect it to grow to 15% or 20% in the next three to five years. It gives us a leaner structure to operate without the brick-and-mortar space at this point in re-launching the company.”
Distinctive global chic
Amegashie described MOSAIC as a unique e-commerce destination for consumers who want to patronize global artistry, particularly handcrafted items, accessories, jewelry, and other gifts. She still scouts vibrant, international locales to find items that reflect the unique designs of a destination’s artisans, especially emerging talent. She’s on the hunt for merchandise that’s likely to make a timeless fashion statement, tell a unique story, and stir the senses.
As she tries to fill what she considers a niche void in the market, Amegashie is not that concerned about how her online startup plays in Peoria, but rather how it plays on the global stage. Amegashie is going after a targeted customer base of worldly women, and with her buying background and her ability to source unique merchandise, she fully experts her products to resonate with that targeted audience.
“I’m going for very specific gal who wants to stand out from the norm, who is a global enthusiast, who enjoys travel, who wants that global fashion pulled together for her in a one-stop destination,” Amegashie says. “It’s very relevant, it’s timely, and seven or eight years later [after her first attempt], it’s even more relevant today.”
Part of her strategy will be to take advantage of pop-up events where she partners with a complementary retailer for space, and use that opportunity to pair shopping with charity. The wildly popular pop-ups are special shopping nights or weekends for consumers, and they represent unconventional marketing vehicles for nontraditional retailers. Amegashie has done them in Madison, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — wherever customer orders come from.
With e-commerce, the barriers to entry are definitely lower, with the notable exception of customer acquisition and the need to invest in photographic images that convey the quality of the merchandise. Amegashie, whose retail experience includes a stint with Pier1, says the type of merchandise she sells is ideal for the e-commerce space. Unlike clothing, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a large inventory of different sizes and styles. With SKU (stock-keeping unit) items like jewelry, accessories, and gifts, she can buy in limited quantities and rebuild her assortment as needed.
“I can’t compete with a Target or other large retailers when it comes to the depth and the breadth of the assortment they can carry in apparel,” she notes. “Everything is focused in terms of my tagline — distinctive global chic. I’m an ‘e-tailer’ offering distinctive accessories and gifts.”
Amegashie is still in the process of planning the re-launch and she’s employing different strategies to help raise capital — the Fundable.com campaign being the most immediate. She considers it a limited time opportunity to empower the artisans she plans to partner with.
“I do business with a conscience,” she says, “so you’re impacting women and families based on the vendor base that I specifically target. That’s the most immediate thing — to really get this seed money to be a player in this space come fall.”
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.