New York based entrepreneurs Doug Crisona and Cyrus Park have created a new marketplace for businesses to market to other businesses. They call their New York startup Self To Shelf. They liken it to other marketplaces already out there like ebay and etsy but instead of onesie twosie operators with side businesses, their marketplace is for established businesses to sell their wares to other businesses without the need for their own e-commerce site.
Self to Shelf is a wholesale marketplace. If your looking for a place to sell your wares to other retailers, or you represent a retail shop, than this may be the platform for you. You can now get in front of a large and curated community of retailers and wholesalers without having to rifle through other folks, not so serious about their business, that can stifle sales and pollute a community.
“We read a newspaper article titled “Getting Your Product onto Retail shelves”. The story was about a man selling a gourmet food product who wanted to get into retail stores. His predicament was that he had a great product that his (small) customer base loved. However, he didn’t have the means to spread the word about his product to get the attention of stores. So he was forced to pound the pavement and go door-to-door, pitching his product. The article presented a few solutions: hiring a sales rep/product broker, or going to trade shows. From our experience, we’ve seen these traditional routes work well, but they can be expensive, time consuming, and very limiting by one’s budget and geography. So we got to talking about how an online marketplace, if done right, could really help to change this aspect of the industry. We started by talking to a lot of people in the industry and it grew from there.” Crisona told us in an interview.
The two cofounders are looking to help others break into retail which can be a very hard process going through traditional channels.
Check out the rest of the interview below.
What is Self to Shelf?
Self to Shelf is an online wholesale marketplace and community that enables Sellers to discover, communicate with and sell their products to Retail Stores. Our goal is to transform the process of ‘selling wholesale’ from cold calls, drop-ins and expensive trade shows into an efficient and easy method of getting products in stores.
We enable verified Sellers to establish profiles, upload their product(s), photos, post a sales pitch and information about their company, set pricing and shipping terms, receive orders and accept payments. Verified Buyers(Retail Stores) can set up business profiles, post necessary information about their company, start searching the marketplace and place wholesale orders. This is tied together by a private messaging system so that buyers and sellers can communicate with each other as much as they need.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
We like to compare it to existing marketplaces, like eBay and Etsy. But for the Grandmothers that don’t know of those sites, it’s like an online version of a trade show or farmer’s market. Everyone has a booth to display what they are selling, and customers can browse from booth to booth looking for products they would like to purchase. The difference though, is that we don’t allow just anyone to view and purchase products from our marketplace, you must be an established retail business. We deal strictly in business to business, not business to consumer.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Doug Crisona and Cyrus Park are the two co-founders. We’ve known eachother for 9 years; we studied together in college and focused in small business and entrepreneurship. We have several years experience consulting with independent businesses in various communities providing marketing, financial and strategic advice. Most recently, Cyrus worked as the Marketing Director of a startup based in Brooklyn and then moved on to a boutique investment bank. Doug has worked in marketing for small businesses and most recently worked as a manager for a tech startup based in Manhattan.
Where are you based?
We are based in New York City.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
The startup scene in NYC is booming and thus, it is incredibly competitive. Startups here are heavily funded by VC money and get a lot of press coverage. It’s focused mainly around social media startups, although B2B companies are beginning to catch up. With so many new opportunities and resources here, it’s an exciting environment to be starting a business in.
How did you come up with the name?
It just came to us while brainstorming; it’s a pretty straightforward name because we wanted our concept to come across very clearly. Self to Shelf explains the exact process and service we provide. ‘Self’ represents both the seller and the buyer, and ‘Shelf’ of course represents retail store shelves. Put together, it suggests that a business owner can easily sell their product to retail stores through our site.
What problem does Self To Shelf solve?
Self to Shelf solves a problem that many small businesses have; getting products into stores is hard. Getting a product into retail stores is a significant milestone, but it can be difficult to achieve, and even harder to manage after getting there.
More specifically, the traditional way of doing things in the wholesale industry has a lot room for improvement. Many of the small businesses we are working with have used the internet to reach consumers very successfully, but have not found a similar platform to do so on the B2B side. We want to see a world where the small business owner doesn’t need to waste time carrying products door to door, sending out pamphlets, making cold calls and attending expensive trade shows.
What’s your secret sauce?
Our secret sauce would have to be Small Businesses. Many startups don’t have the luxury of knowing who their customer is until after they launch. Fortunately for us, we know exactly who we want to serve, so every business owner we have met, spoken with and then pestered for advice has contributed to what we’re building.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We are currently bootstrapped and that is our business model for the foreseeable future.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
When starting up, we noticed a very cyclical nature to the learning curve of our business. As soon as we made an important, well-informed decision, there was always something we needed to learn more about, whether it was finding the right payment processor to integrate with our website or learning how to market effectively to different users. This was difficult and cost us quite a lot of time and money, but we have learned to be more efficient with practice and believe it has positioned us very well for when we go live.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
It’s too difficult to think of just one or two people we consider as mentors. We’ve been pretty shameless in tapping into all of our and networks and have called on the help of anyone who had the misfortune of asking us about our business. We’ve gotten a lot of guidance from former professors and employers, family, friends, and friends of friends.
Choosing a role model is much easier. To reiterate our ‘secret sauce’ answer: small business owners that work tirelessly to be successful and contribute enormously to local economies everywhere!
What’s next for Self To Shelf?
We’re going live this winter, in the U.S. for now. We’ll be focusing on serving our users, and will be adding some additional custom payment and ordering features shortly after we launch.