Back in 2014, my busy schedule often meant I got whatever I needed online aka Facebook Shops. When you’re a customer, you often don’t realise the pain these small shops go through to make sure you get your products right at your doorstep. I didn’t either. That realisation dawned on me one day, while hanging out with a few friends, two of whom owned thriving Facebook stores.
Apparently, my friends’ products were literally flying off their shelves. You’d think that would make them happy. Weirdly enough, it didn’t. Instead, both of them were tired. Tired of managing customers. Managing the adverts. Managing the deliveries. In fact, managing the business had become such a big hassle, that they were forced to spend less and less time on what they loved doing best--designing their products. One of them was actually considering quitting and joining a boutique store instead.
My advice to them was simple. Why didn’t they just build a website and automate the whole process. And so it began. With newfound enthusiasm, both my friends built amazing websites with their hard earned money, in the hope it would ease their lives and leave them enough time to design. Except, it didn’t. Customers still kept messaging on Facebook for products. Deliveries still kept getting messed up. And the website turned into a show-piece, nice to look at, but absolutely useless.
So website was definitely not the answer. Then what was? And that is where my journey begin. I’ll admit our initial efforts were umm...pretty disappointing. Our first product "Shopfront" generated websites and integrated it with a shop's Facebook Page. We were overjoyed. But sadly, my friends were not. It only solved one piece of the puzzle. But what about the complex back-end they hated using?
So that was that. That particular product had to be scratched. Here's the catch. You can either wrestle with the market, give up, or work with your target customers, learn from it, and adapt. We started reaching out to sellers with a simple question. Where does it hurt? That’s what eventually led to ShopUp. A system, that does the work of a website--but is as easy as operating a Facebook Page.
Once we launched ShopUp, we could immediately tell--this was a product the market wanted. Just after a few weeks, hundreds of merchants subscribed to our service. Every now and then, we’ll launch a feature that is useless, and delete it after a few weeks. But once in a while, we are able to come up with features that become absolute game changer for the clients. The ShopUp bot, in particular was described by one of our merchants as her “Personal Store Assistant”, and that is exactly what we aimed for with ShopUp.
We began with a software, and last week, we launched a program that aids micro-entrepreneurs get small amounts of advances to grow their businesses. We had no plans to get here. But we did, with the help of our customers.
ShopUp currently caters to over 2,500+ small businesses. And we look forward to supporting thousands more over the years to come.
We’re just on a mission to contribute our two pence to make sure that we seize that opportunity. We're not sure we have done that yet. Or if we ever will be able to. But we’ll keep trying, and maybe one day we too will have a success story to tell. Until then, we’ll just ask you to stay tuned!
Siffat Sarwar is the founder and managing partner of ShopUp (shopup.com.bd)