I would hope to have a witty and elegant post after the long period of silence. Alas, it is not to be. Two months ago, I started working on a new little venture to provide a multi-vendor or peer-to-peer marketplace with a nautical theme. I had particular goals to achieve with this marketplace so I was very excited to get moving with my new business venture.
I already owned an appropriate domain name and we would be able to host the marketplace at least temporarily on our virtual private server (VPS), so in late September I started pulling together everything needed for the site. Like any startup, that involved making sure I had a business structure in place (in this case I chose to incorporate and then file paperwork with the IRS to become an S corporation), getting a business bank account and because it is an online business, I also needed to investigate available payment gateways and e-commerce platforms for my purpose of having this multi vendor marketplace. Loads of solutions fit a single store, but not so many for a multi vendor or peer to peer marketplace.
I wasn’t extremely familiar with state-of-the-art in multi vendor marketplaces available to my potential customers (vendors who do not wish to set up their own online shop and individuals who sell things from time-to-time) so I spent a bit of time checking out different business models and services as well as common fee structuring. I found a wide range available–some of them clunky but well established like Ebay stores while others are more sleek and meet the needs of a particular group of vendors, like Etsy does for crafters.
In my searching, I found numerous sites that make their money by offering a physical product like cups and t-shirts that a vendor could put their own logo on. Similarly, there are sites for photographers. This latter type of multi vendor site relies on profits from the branded physical goods like t-shirts or printing the photographs, matting, framing, and so forth. My nautical marketplace vendors are expected to be service oriented or have their own goods that need to be shipped (or drop shipped) so the fee structures of EBay and Etsy were my focus. The combination of listing fees (pennies per listing but they can add up as a vendor may have a hundred listings going at a time which eventually expire and must be re-listed) and commission add up. A goal is for my marketplace to be profitable for me while offering a better deal for the vendors.
Because I’m familiar with WordPress, almost immediately I chose to set up the website on a WordPress platform and to use a WooCommerce compatible theme for the marketplace. I discovered several multi vendor marketplace themes and plugins and evaluated them. In another post to the blog, I’ll get into details of my testing of each platform, strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. If you want that sooner rather than later, please let me know.
I also started the process of getting a payment platform in place. The payment platform is an interesting part of providing a multi vendor marketplace. I’ve set up marketplace-friendly Stripe Connect and Braintree Marketplace accounts and have been emailing back and forth with Paypal to learn more about their Adaptive Payments system. The process of getting my marketplace software to work with the payment platforms is, shall we say “interesting.” Matters of PCI compliance and ease of use for the retail customers compete with each other in a major way. That’s another sticky topic for another blog post where we can discuss things that are really “down in the weeds” but just have to be right.
So, what’s happened to date? Well, I just published a little blog post about it on our companion blog Sailing Mahdee. Our nautically themed site is “coming soon” but we have launched a little peer-to-peer marketplace, Bootstrap Adventure. It is a site, free to users, that allows us to test some new (non-WordPress) software and support a community of outdoor adventurers at the same time. Overall, a good thing.
Much more here later on multi vendor marketplaces and how things are coming along with Bootstrap Adventure, too. If you’re interested in Bootstrap Adventure, you can follow us by “liking” the Bootstrap Adventure page on Facebook and you can also follow Bootstrap Adventure on Twitter by clicking on the link below.