Archive for eCommerce

TaliaAnn – Clothing with a Cause

She’s only 18 years old, but her age has not stopped her from making a difference.

Talia has a goal – she wants to see an end human trafficking. And she’s already taking the steps she can to make that goal a reality. Talia runs an online clothing company, TaliaAnn (named after herself), where she sells high-quality, high-end clothes including dresses, outerwear, and tops. Her website is flooded with content that clearly portrays her brand and explains to viewers why she does what she does. It also shows specials, advertises her traveling team, and allows customers to connect with her.

Clothing isn’t a new thing. Talia didn’t invent sweatshirts, or tank tops with elephants. But she did something new by combining her style and yearning to set people free from slavery. Based on the success of her business, she has also provided value to customers by allowing them to integrate their love for clothing and heart for freedom as well. She has allowed everyday students, parents, and workers to play a small role in ending human trafficking just by doing something they already regularly d0 – buy clothes.

I talked with Talia on the phone just last week, and learned a lot about her heart and business. Only 18, she spends her time running this business, instead of spending money on herself to attend college. Talia’s end goal is this: to start a company where she can hire women who have been rescued from trafficking, giving them a secure job. In doing this, women will have a steady income and won’t have to go back into trafficking. TaliaAnn is just the first step in this larger end goal.

TaliaAnn is a great example of a company with a social mission. Entrepreneurs don’t have to invent something to be successful – they may just combine a mission with a simple consumer good, and make it available to as many people as possible.

Machinio-One stop shopping for used machinery

Friends Dan Pinto and Dmitriy Rokhfeld go way back. The two met in middle school playing video games and eventually became co-founders of the company—an online search engine where you can buy and sell used industrial equipment. They recognized a gap in the marketplace when Pinto was looking for a used printing press in 2012. He realized that there was no easy-to-use search engine that specialized in used equipment. There was kayak for hotels and indeed for jobs so he created Machinio for machinery.

This new search engine has revolutionized the way people buy and sell used machinery. It is the fastest growing global search engine in its category with 550,000 buyers from more than 190 countries. The service has opened new markets in all parts of the world that were previously unavailable. They have raised $4 million dollars from a number of investors and opened their second office in early 2017. Their solution saves users time by making it easy to buy and sell used equipment while putting all its users on an equal playing field. Their story showcases an important lesson. Learn to look for gaps in the marketplace that already come from good ideas.

Chasing Paper

Elizabeth Rees grew up in an entreprenural family, her father managed a printing plant called Kubin-Nicholson. Although she didnt always plan to become involved with the family printing business, she ran a line of modular wallpaper using the plant’s digital paper that became an instant hit among her friend that sparked serious word of mouth. Elizabeth has traveled through many towns and cities growing up and her entrepreneurial spirit has been cultivated along the way. Having to decorate her many homes around the globe, the idea for a modern wallpaper for the urban home was formed. Chasing Paper is an e-commerce brand that specializes in stylish, removable wallpaper that was led by Rees with backing by her families company. It is on track to hit $1 million in sales with its wall paper retailing at $40 a piece. This entreprenur found a way to use what she had availible to cater to her own style and passions.

Natalie Webb: A True GCC Entrepreneur

Last May, Natalie Webb graduated from Grove City College with a degree in entrepreneurship. After she graduated, she began working on launching her own business and app, which she designed for her elevator pitch her senior year. Her business model was born out of a problem which she had experienced in her grade school days, and she knew many other people experienced as well.

          As a homeschooler, Natalie and her family had to buy all of their books themselves, and as there was no curated or organized way to buy used book, they usually ended up buying these books new from publishers, which got very expensive. However, Natalie noticed that after he finished with a book, it just stayed on her bookshelf until it either was given away to a family friend or sold at a significantly reduced price at a yard sale. Natalie considered how wasteful this was, both on the buying end and the reselling end because there was no organized platform for homeschoolers to interact with each other in this manner. Out of this pain came her idea of Hoot Book Revival, which is an app and website on which homeschoolers can resell their books and buy used books from other homeschooling families at a reduced cost. This benefits both the buyer and the seller, because people looking to buy books can get them much cheaper than they can new books, and people looking to sell books can sell them for more than they could at a yard sale.

Since her graduation last May, Natalie has been working to get this web platform active. She hired a company to design her website and has gotten guest writers to post on her blog. She has spent the last few months spreading the word about her company to homeschooling families and educators and talking to different publishers and co-ops about her business. While the cite is currently active, it is pretty light on content, so Natalie is focusing her attention on adding content and marketing for her business to possible clients.

          When I asked Natalie about how this business came about and what need it was filling, she said, “I suppose the core of the business idea was identifying an underrepresented group, and how their market needs weren’t being addressed, because the business pitch itself is pretty simple.” Natalie’s website allows the customer to buy and sell books, as well as collaborate with other homeschoolers on which lesson plans and books are best. Hoot Book Revival also has an option where people can post their books and let Hoot do all the work in finding people to sell them to, making the customer experience more enjoyable and less labor intensive.

Ultimately, Natalie’s business is incredibly innovative not because she came up with the idea of reselling books, but rather because she found a niche market and is catering to them in a new, technologically advanced way, and allowing them to simply post their books and have her company do the rest of the work for them. It is pretty neat to see such awesome innovation coming out of our own Grove City College.

China’s ‘Mark Zuckerbergs’

Personal branding

29-year-old Leo Chen, also known as Chen Ou, has kept a high profile through his charismatic personal branding.Leo Chen, co-founder and CEO of, the first China-based cosmetics group-buying site made himself his company’s public face. The handsome young man has not only starred in a popular online commercial for his company but has also appeared on billboards and various TV shows. He has also kept a high profile by remaining active in social media.

“I endorse my own brand because I think a company’s reputation and value is indelibly linked to that of its leader. The CEO naturally becomes the company’s public face,” he said.

The young entrepreneur also believes that he has an insight into the company’s target female consumers.

“Why do I sell cosmetics to women? Because I believe women like to make themselves look good for people who appreciate them. So men’s opinions are important in women’s choice of cosmetics,” Chen said.His site has ascended to become one of China’s top cosmetics e-tailers through this blanket promotional strategy. The budgeted personal branding, as Chen said, has saved his company about 100 million yuan in advertising expenses.

Leo Chen studied in Singapore from the age of 16. In 2005 during his last year at Nanyang Technological University, he founded Garena, now one of the world’s largest online game platforms. Later he received an MBA from Stanford, sold Garena, and moved his business focus to China.

Initially a cosmetics group-buying site, has grown into a major B2C (business to customer) platform for cosmetics.But before Chen established the site in 2010, he and two other co-founders, both male, had no experience in e-commerce, or in the selling women’s cosmetics.


Convenient Store At Your Door

Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev launched goPuff when they were only sophomores at Drexel University in 2013. GoPuff is your convenient store on wheels, bringing over 3,000 items ranging from snacks and drinks to necessities and electronics – straight to your front door in 30 minutes or less. The idea came to them as car-less freshmen roommates constantly asking for rides to get basic necessities or cigarettes. There were apps for full-blown grocery shopping or gourmet food, but what about just a plain old convenient store run? – and goPuff was born.

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Before they had even fully launched, they were already getting orders from fellow college students and residents of Philadelphia. At first, the roommates worked 17-18 hour shifts with their (new) cars to deliver the snacks and goodies, but with time came employees and they now have dozens of drivers in twelve different cities across the US.Image result for gopuff

Gola and Ilishayev don’t see other food delivery services as their competitors – they see the brick and mortar convenient stores as their primary competition. Competition is a loose term however – in 2014, they already had 25,000 customers in Philadelphia alone just a year after launch.

While it’s unfortunate that their services don’t extend to Grove City, they are constantly expanding and setting up camp in more major cities across America. So the next time you’re in a big city with a hankering for Ben & Jerry’s, goPuff’s got your back.


Justin Wetherill built a multi-million dollar business out of his bedroom in Orlando, FL. What started out as a simple problem – a broken iPhone screen – turned into an idea that Justin developed into uBreakiFix, which is now an international franchise operation.

After working as a staff accountant for a few months out of college, Justin quickly realized that he didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk for the rest of his life. He and his friend David Reiff tried their hand at a few different business ideas, including an online custom t-shirt business and a custom gaming computer business. Neither of them picked up much traction though. It wasn’t until Justin dropped his iPhone 3G and broke the screen that the idea for uBreakiFix was born. Not wanting to pay $200 to have the phone fixed by Apple, Justin ordered some parts online and decided to learn how to do it himself – and proceeded to break his phone even worse. But that didn’t stop him. He went on to buy a bunch of broken phones on eBay and learned how to fix them through trial and error. David built a website to advertise their services. For $79.99 you could mail in your phone and they would fix it and mail it back. The business took off, and they quickly realized that customers wanted same-day repairs, so they opened up a storefront. In the first month, they made $18,000 in revenue and $28,000 the second month – Justin quit his job in the third month.

The business expanded from one store to two quickly. Justin would hire and train his friends and paid them $10 an hour with a deal that if they worked hard for six months, they could own a store. Within three years, uBreakiFix went from zero to 47 corporate stores and a revenue of $27 million. Currently about 15% of the stores are owned by former employees.

Justin’s story shows that entrepreneurship is a lot of trial and error and learning to get back on your feet when something goes wrong. It’s also about accepting risk – the reason why his company was able to grow so fast was because they put almost all the revenue back into the company, betting on the fact that their idea would be successful.

To read more about Justin’s story, see this interview with him in Forbes.

Feeling just Fine

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In 2012, as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Daniel Fine started selling foldable sunglasses out of his dorm room. After gaining interested investors, “Glass-U” grew into a remarkable product that launched at the 2013 Rose Bowl and was the official sunglasses provider for the FIFA World Cup. The design of fully foldable sunglasses attracted huge interest, and Daniel Fine’s company rebranded as “NEU” with their expansion.

Daniel Fine

NEU is only one of Daniel Fine’s success stories. Daniel Fine has started four companies – Team Brotherly Love, which funds research to find a cure for juvenile diabetes; Match Tutors, which matches tutors with students in Boston; Dosed, a new way to accurately track insulin; and Glass-U, now NEU.

Daniel Fine has been named one of the top 5 young entrepreneurs by Entrepreneurs Organization, was on Forbes’ 2016 30 under 30 list, and was one of TIME Magazine’s Top 25 International Leaders of Tomorrow. He has received numerous awards from both the Bush administration and the Obama administration, and in 2014 was nominated as one of the top 30 student entrepreneurs in the world.

He has a heart for diabetes research because of his diabetic brother, and is very philanthropic in that area, including the creation of a research foundation. Daniel Fine graduated just last year, but shows no signs of stopping his innovation. Read more about him here.

Good Clothes for a Good Cause

Ivory Ella started when five college students and a high school business teacher came together and wanted to create “good clothes for a good cause.” Ryan Duranso, Jacob Castaldi, Richard Henne, Matthew Fiano, John Allen, and Esma Ilyas founded the company on April 18, 2015 and has grown rapidly ever since.


The company is driven by the elephants getting poached in Africa. In the last decade Africa’s elephant population has declined by 64%. The founders of Ivory Ella saw a need to build awareness and help the cause. Ivory Ella is partnered with an organization called Save the Elephants. This organization is operating out of Kenya, where it researches elephants and calls attention to the problem of the declining elephant population. Save the Elephants has started to see a growth in the elephant population since they have been raising awareness.


Ivory Ella has already been so successful in the short time they have been open. With 10% of their proceeds going to Save the Elephant, many people buy the shirts just for the social aspect. Not only is their company driven to save the elephants, but their designs are really cute as well! The have a variety of different designs targeted to girls from middle school to college age. Along with t-shirts, they also sell outerwear, hats, jewelry, and drinkware.

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The company prides themselves for connecting with their target market and really listening to the customers. This is very evident when you look at their customers and see how satisfied they are. These young entrepreneurs have created a great brand with great meaning.

Vivy Yusof, the Malaysian Fashion Entrepreneur

Young Vivy Yusof built a Southeast Asia fashion e-commerce site from nothing but a frustrating shopping experience and a personal blog. After returning from studying in London, Vivy and her husband had the idea to bring online shopping to Malaysia after driving in heavy traffic from shop to shop in the rain. They started Fashion Valet in 2010 with a capital of MYR100,000 (about $24,000), 10 designers and 20 staff. In just six years, the business grew to include over 500 brands and hundreds of staff with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta.

Vivy attributes the business’ success to her thousands of followers on her personal blog and social media accounts. “They were my only customers when we first started,” she said. This gave them an edge against their competition once big competitors moved into Malaysia. However, no startup is perfect – Fashion Valet tried to beat their competition at their own game and made the crucial mistake of lowering their standards of what they sold. This affected their brand identity, but Vivy and her husband went back to their roots and rebounded from the mistake. Their focus is on a direct and affordable connection to local designers and personal connections with their customers. Recently, they’ve opened up a retail location, specializing in offering fashionable hijabs. Fashion Valet has had some major investments from Malaysian internet company MY EG and Silicon Valley’s Elixir Capital, enabling Vivy to search for more collaborations with designers and celebrities to continue to grow their business.

Want to learn more about Vivy’s journey as an entrepreneur? Check out her personal blog where it all began.