Over the past few months, I have written a few articles and guides to help entrepreneurs with disability. My first article looked at the motivations and barriers for starting a business. More recently I wrote a guide for how you could use your NDIS funding to start your own business .
In this article I'm going to discuss a new online marketplace for self-employed people with disability to sell their products and services: Mercando Marketplace . Let me start by quickly telling you how Mercando Market came to be and then I'll give you the marketplace details.
Mercando is a Technology Driven Support Provider.
Firstly, Mercando is not a conventional disability support provider! We have an inhouse tech team working behind the scenes of Mercando. This same team can be used to help you too. This is why I think Mercando is one of the best disability support providers to help you make your business idea happen.
Technology Should Make Starting a Business Easier Right?
Let us discuss the problem that Mercando Marketplace is trying to solve.
We are always hearing that technology is making our lives easier. This should make it easier to start a business, microenterprise or social enterprise right? Wrong!
One of the biggest barriers for many new small businesses is setting up the digital side. This is true for people with or without disability. This often leads to either no digital side of the business or spending a lot of money and time on something that is not well suited to the needs of your business.
There are actually a number of specialised skills that could be considered when creating the digital side of a business. A few for a web page include:
Graphic designers to create your logo and images.
Content writers to tell your business's story.
Photographers to visually tell your business's story.
Front end web-developers to make sure your page is arranged in a way that gets you conversions from your customers.
Back end web-developers to run your servers, map your domains, handle digital payments, create logins for your customers, etc.
On the digital marketing side of a new business there is also a number of things you might need to consider when testing and selecting a marketing channel. There are 19 different channels to be potentially aware of. Some of the more well known channels include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Pay Per Click (Google Ads) and Content Marketing.
Often a person who is starting a new business already has their own skill or specialty that they want to use in that business. Having to learn the digital side of a business means they are spending less time doing what they are good at and actually want to do. It can be a real barrier.
Mercando Marketplace - Removing The Digital Barrier When Starting a Business.
Technology should assist a person with disability to start a business and not act as a barrier. It should let that person spend more time doing what they are passionate about in the business. The solution we have created for this is Mercando Market .
On Mercando Marketplace, we set you up with your own market page. Here you can put on the products and services you want to sell and customers can buy them. What ever price you set for your product or service, you will get 100% of that. We add on a small transaction fee from our payment provider Stripe of 0.25% + 0.25c but that is it.
For example, if you sell a product for $20 on your market page, the customer will be charged $20.30 and you will receive $20. The extra 30 cents goes to Stripe for handling the transaction.
Let us now dig a little deeper into how Mercando Marketplace can help you.
What goals should the online side of a business have? You could probably think up several things but there is really only a few that I think probably matter in creating a sustainable business model:
Get Money from Selling Products or Services.
Communicate with Existing Customers.
Reach New Customers.
Let us have a look at how Mercando Marketplace can help you with these three potential goals.
1. Get Money from Selling Products or Services:
Any business needs a way to accept money for what it is trying to sell. Having an online way to this, whether on Mercando Marketplace or any other way to accept payments, could make things easier and save you time. Having your sales deposited directly into your bank is easier than keeping a money till and having to physically go to a bank to make a deposit.
There are also more advanced digital payment options to take advantage of. Maybe you want to put your customers on a monthly subscription for your product or service? We can help you set this up on Mercando Marketplace.
2. Communicate with Existing Customers:
You can hopefully get more repeat customers by staying in contact with them. Every time someone buys something from your market page, they will leave their email, name, etc. We will maintain a database for you of your customers.
If your customers allow you to, you can keep them updated with how your business is going. For example, you might notify them of new products or services on your market page.
3. Reach New Customers:
The first two potential goals are more to aid your existing business. Reaching new customers is about using your online presence to get customers you would not have got in real life.
Along with the items you are selling on your market page, you will also have an info section that tells customers about you and your business's story. We will help you to create this info page and you can use it to direct people to from whatever marketing channel you choose. We can help you decide on a marketing channel during your planning stage too.
It is our hope though, that once Mercando Marketplace's traffic grows you will benefit from new customers finding you on the business map of the market landing page.
Mercando Marketplace Will be an Assistive Technology.
Unlike a conventional website or template site we have full control over the computer code on Mercando Marketplace. We can change the way the market page operates behind the scenes based on your needs. For example:
Maybe you want to be notified of a new customer via email, voice message or by a support worker?
Maybe you can only sell a few products a week and need your market page to restrict new customers after that?
Maybe you can only be notified about a sale at certain times?
We can customise how your market page interacts with you to suit your needs.
How Much Does it Cost to be on the Mercando Marketplace?
There is no cost to be on the Mercando Marketplace but you need to be receiving a minimum of 2 hours of support from Mercando Marketplace per month. In your support hours we can help you design, update and customize your online market page. You can use your NDIS supports (if your plan allows this) in the same way you would with a regular support worker.
For example, you might need to add a new product to your online market page. You get in touch with us and book a support session. In that session we help you take an image of the product, upload it to the market page and set a price for it. You use your NDIS funding (if your plan allows this) to cover the support like any other support worker.
What supports you can use will depend on your NDIS plan and goals. Have a look at the NDIS funding to start a business guide I wrote a few weeks ago for more info.
What Cities Does Mercando Marketplace Operate In?
Mercando Marketplace accepts businesses from anywhere in Australia. We can only offer physical support workers in Melbourne at this time. However, we can still work with you through what ever your favorite video communication tool is like zoom or skype. We can also work along side your current support worker or carer, so ask them if they are interested and get in touch with us.
We are holding monthly info sessions at our offices or feel free to contact us below if you are interested in Mercando Marketplace.