Get to know a Toronto startup: ShopLocket

Have you been looking for a simple and inexpensive way to sell your self-published memoir or hand-woven puppet sock? What YouTube is for videos, ShopLocket wants to be for single item e-commerce. ShopLocket provides a display box for your goods that can easily be embedded on a web site, Tumblr or even Facebook. From there, friends, readers and soon-to-be customers can view the item for sale and click through to purchase the product.

Toronto-based ShopLocket launched in private beta at the end of February, and then officially opened up to the public last month. To date, over 3,000 users have already signed up for the service. I spoke with CEO and Co-Founder Katherine Hague about ShopLocket and why she thinks her product is going to bring e-commerce to the masses.

What was the inspiration for ShopLocket?

Over a year ago, I thought I'd have some t-shirts printed to promote my consulting business. I wanted to sell them online, but considering I didn't know if I could sell even one t-shirt, I couldn't commit to the $29 monthly fee to set up an online store. I also realized that a single product in a full online store would look ridiculous. Plus, after getting used to the great design of Shopify (a site that allows customers to set up an online store, for whom I had designed a store theme) I couldn't bring myself to post my product on Craigslist. I quickly saw there was a need for something like ShopLocket.

How did the business get started?

Last fall we put together some early prototypes and showed them to hundreds of people to get feedback on the idea. After confirming that there was a need for a product like ours, we officially started building it in December of last year.

We're currently taking part in the Toronto-based accelerator Extreme Startups. It's a 12-week program, which gives us the opportunity to receive up to $200K in funding as well as awesome mentorship and support and office space at King and Yonge. Over the next few weeks we're focusing on learning from our sellers so that we can continue to optimize our product.

How has your background prepared you to launch Shoplocket?

I'm only 21, but I've been involved in entrepreneurship since high school, when I started planning conferences for student entrepreneurs. I got my BBA from Schulich about a year ago, and I've worked as a digital media consultant and have held a variety of marketing positions for Toronto-based startups over the last few years. My experience with Shopify also helped me understand the landscape of e-commerce.

How do vendors get paid, and how do you make money?

The money from purchases of your product through ShopLocket go directly to your PayPal account. After your first sale, we'll ask you for your credit card information. We keep track of your purchases, and once a month we will bill your credit card for the equivalent of 2.5% of your sales. There is also a one-time $2 publishing fee we charge at the time of your first sale.

Why do you think ShopLocket will be a hit with customers?

I think what we do is fill an important gap in the market. At this point, the average person has their own distribution channels through their social media networks. It's not a big leap to now start leveraging those channels to sell online. This has not been done before and we think this will be the tool to empower lots of people to get involved in online sales.

Is there anything similar out there?

There have been a couple of similar startups that have emerged in the last couple of months. Gumroad is similar - though they're more focused on digital goods and less focused on the embedded functionality. They're an early stage company as well.

Who are your customers?

In terms of the types of products we've seen, there are a lot of indie jewellery makers, self-published authors, and small companies that want to move specific merchandise. Most of the people who have signed up so far are from the US and Canada, but we've also seen strong interest from Japan. Japanese vendors are interested in distribution channels they can control themselves, because middlemen in Japan take large cuts. ShopLocket seems like the right fit for their market.

Editors Note: See ShopLocket in action here

Writing by Nadine Blum.

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