At the same time every morning, Kevin calls. Two co-founders in two states. We look at the same information over our MacBook Pros and one of two Apple monitors on Web’s desk is devoted to the company we are building together. We discuss inventory, traffic, shipping costs, SEO issues and everything else that you’d imagine from a young-but-bustling men’s fashion retailer — and we do it all virtually.
The idea for Mizzen+Main was born several years ago when co-founder and CEO Kevin Lavelle watched a congressional staffer run into a meeting from the sweltering D.C. summer, soaked in sweat. Mizzen+Main launched in July 2012 with a product line focused on moisture wicking, wrinkle free, American-made dress shirts. Today our products include blazers, leather, shoes, ties and other accessories.
Startups like ours can focus our energy on developing our product, service and brand because of the platforms and tools available today. With the emergence of new web applications and plugins, the face of e-commerce is changing dramatically. A business can launch a product or service worldwide and reach millions without the massive infrastructure investment required just a few short years ago.
While most of tech news focuses on the next B2C mobile app or the new iteration of social media gamification, it is especially encouraging to see a rise of new e-commerce companies focused on selling goods that can be touched, worn and traded.
We are now in the age of e-commerce 3.0, where entrepreneurs can launch companies with few barriers to entry. E-commerce 1.0 consisted of crude online shopping in the ’90s offered by a few businesses met with significant consumer skepticism. This evolved into the more sophisticated interactions of e-commerce 2.0 in the mid 2000s, when most companies realized that if they weren’t online, they were endangering their future.
As Web’s mentor Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Innovation doesn’t care about anyone.” The cumbersome legacy systems businesses have in place from years past are already being surpassed by the agile collaborative commerce technologies that are enabling new, viable businesses to launch and quickly become competitive.
A new time is here — and the power no longer lies in the hands of a few buyers at large stores. Bigger businesses can be upended by an upstart competitor with a superior product. And retail startups no longer have to endure the long, slow road of trade-show hopping to get their product in front of a handful of buyers, or giving away a hefty portion of each sale to distributors.
Platforms such as Shopify and Stitch Labs have enabled Mizzen+Main, along with myriad other companies, to focus on brand and product first — essentially democratizing e-commerce. That’s not revolutionary news, but with the robust, cloud-based add-ons available, we really can run an entire business with two partners in two states and nearly all systems run virtually. Companies like Stitch Labs build on top of new platforms like Shopify to offer a wide range of cloud-based services built by brilliant engineers who understand how to build for usability. Typically, each of these programs or platforms grants API access to others, so each platform or app talks to the others, reducing overhead, unnecessary paperwork and wasted time.
This bodes very well for entrepreneurs, consumers and our economy. If you have a great idea, you are rapidly running out of reasons to avoid pursuing it. If you don’t have the capital to get your product made, you can launch on a platform like Fundable to pay for your first run of inventory. You can transition over to a beautiful e-commerce site with ease and set up all of your back-office apps and programs with one seamless interface.
This creates an environment where even non-technical entrepreneurs with tangible products can thrive and consumers get access to fantastic new products.
Our economy grows when people are willing to take risks and build a company. We believe e-commerce 3.0 will see many more people doing just that.