Mathé Zsolt-László and Ordog Zoltan, Co-Founders of the online store creator Shoptsie, are two entrepreneurs that the StartupYard team truly admires. Coming from a Hungarian community in Romania, Zsolt and Zoltan rode a bus for 24 hours to make it to their first meetings with StartupYard mentors and stakeholders. Then, to our amazement, they got back on the bus and rode 24 hours home as well.
From our first meeting, we’ve noted their incredible dedication to the Shoptsie mission, and their ability, time and again, to deliver on the promises they make to us, and to themselves. We’ve been impressed, and we’re sure you will be too. I caught up with the duo to talk about Shoptsie, and their time so far at StartupYard.
Shoptsie currently has over 6000 products listed in over 1000 online shops, and that number is growing daily.
Hi guys! You’re unique among all StartupYard startups. You’re not our first team from Romania, but you are our first team of Hungarians. Tell us a bit about yourselves, and where you come from.
Zsolt: Originally I’m from the smallest city in Romania, in Transylvania, called Baile Tusnad and recently moved to Miercurea Ciuc. I crafted websites for more than 15 years and also I worked 8 years as a database engineer for the government. Now with the launch of Shoptsie this will change. As CEO I will concentrate on running the company, managing the day-to-day operations.
Zoltan: I was born in Miercurea Ciuc and I live there too. After I’ve finished the college I worked in a printing house, then I started to create websites as a webdesigner. After 10 years and numerous websites I joined to Zsolt to work on Shoptsie.
Tell us about Shoptsie. Who is it for, how does it work?
Zsolt: Shopstie is an intuitive online store creator for creative people who don’t know how to sell online. It’s very easy and simple. With Shoptsie anyone can create an ecommerce website that can be integrated into Facebook Pages and existing websites or blogs without any coding skills.
After a quick registration you can upload your categories and products, choose a beautifully designed template that can be customized to match with your brand look and feel.
Shoptsie also provides a set of marketing applications with which the store owners can reach more customers. We also created a knowledge base blog where the store owners can learn how to create an email campaign and how to advertise on social media.
Q: How is Shoptsie different from other store creators like Shopify, or marketplaces like Etsy?
Zsolt: Out motto is “We grow with you”.
Unlike any other pay-as-you-go services like Shopify, Shoptsie gives beginners a risk-free entry into online sales.
This means that you can list up to 20 products for free in your Shoptsie store, and sell them at no upfront cost. We don’t make money until you do.
Another differentiator is that we can teach you where and how to advertise to start making sales online. Marketplaces like Etsy are good solutions for selling, we don’t say that people should leave them, but there is a big chance that your product will be listed next to your competitors’ products.
Stores on marketplaces look the same, all you can do is maybe upload a banner. With Shoptsie you can have your own professional e-shop which you can personalize to match your personality, your brand’s look and feel.
Also, when you are advertising your marketplace store, you’re also advertising the marketplace at the same time. Why don’t you spend your money on advertising your own brand?
Q: How can your users advertise their goods, and where can they sell them? Do they need their own websites first?
Zoltan: They can use their social network, without having their own websites. That’s a key area of growth for small scale businesses selling online. Shoptsie offers an app that helps these sellers find Facebook Groups with similar interests, and another app with which they can create a Contest to collect emails. Another – quite popular – app is the Facebook App that let our users embed their stores directly in their own Facebook page.
This is part of what makes our approach unique: we aim to provide all the tools a seller needs to market and sell their goods online, so Shoptsie is more than just a place where people can find your goods – it’s also a tool that gives you comprehensive and easy access to marketing tools, and shows you how to use them.
Have your users been able to make those tools work for them?
Yes, and I have a great recent example. A few weeks ago we noticed a spike in one store’s statistics. We saw a huge number of visitors from one day to another that we did not expect. It turned out that one of our store owners started a really successful contest on Facebook. He grew the number of visitors by 200% using our tools.
He’d decided to promote one of his products by making it free for a whole week. Then he held a raffle for anyone who shared the link and liked his Facebook store page. This simple trick was enough to drive and increase the traffic to his online store, and his sales increased as well.
Because he was offering a free product (charging only for shipping), he was able to make a lot of sales quickly.
People started to order this product, but some of them added another product (that wasn’t free) to the cart. So the next day there was a big list of orders waiting for delivery.
Now that he has contact information for his clients, he can create email campaigns about new products, promotions and other contests.
So, by giving away one product and sharing this on his Facebook page, in two weeks he managed to increase his sales by more than 80% and collected a big number of email addresses.
That approach is also showing results when it comes to our own growth. Because we focus on helping our sellers market their shops and goods, we’ve seen user-generated sales campaigns that have also increased awareness of Shoptsie. The more quality shops and sellers Shoptsie has, the more we are able to reach first-timers who have never really considered selling online before. When they see how easy it is for others to do it, and that our approach is risk-free, they’re much more likely to try it for themselves.
What types of sellers are you focusing on at first, and why?
Zsolt: We are focusing on handcrafters and fashion designers. At the first we wanted to give a solutions for everybody but we saw that most of our customers came from the crafting and fashion industries, so we are focusing on creating the perfect ecommerce solutions for them.
In the future, as we implement support for digital products, we want to reach creative artists, designers and creative writers as well.
Our near-term goal is to attract as many high-quality, active shop owners as we can. We grow with our user base, so their success is our success. We think this is a model in which everyone wins, from the consumer, to the seller, to crafters who have never tried ecommerce before.
Will you focus on specific geographic markets when you launch?
Zoltan: Yes. Because we speak the languages and we know the region, first we want to focus on the Hungarian and Romanian markets. As the number of our clients from UK and South Africa is also increasing, we want to focus on those markets also.
Q: How has your vision for Shoptsie changed in the past few months?
Zoltan: Two months ago we had a picture in our minds about how we wanted to develop Shoptsie further, so we thought. But at StartupYard, that picture was slowly replaced by a more concrete reality. The plans we make now feel much more real- much more solid.
We are grateful that we can be here. This is a big opportunity for us to learn and to meet mentors who can answer our questions, and shorten the feedback cycle, so that we don’t repeat or fail to notice the mistakes we make.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges you face in getting people to adopt your solutions?
Zsolt: It’s an interesting question. We see fear of the unknown as our biggest challenge. People are afraid to start selling online. They are good at what they do, crafting or designing, and they think that creating an e-shop is rocket science.
Well it’s not. Shoptsie provides them with everything they will need to create, promote, and run their online store, easily and without any coding skills.