In our previous post on Marketplace Technology, the Tech Team presented what technology we’re going to use (Shopify) and why. In this post, we’ll break down how we’re going to build the website on Shopify in phases before October.
Who’s Doing the Work
We spent the first quarter of this year researching the marketplace tech, service providers, and volunteer capacity. We published our Marketplace Tech Plan in March, and in April we identified our team.
First, we looked at our volunteer capacity, to see if we had the resources to develop the marketplace in-house. We have a capable tech team with a lot of development experience. However, few had experience or interest in working with Shopify (a hosted, non-open-source platform). Although Shopify will be fast and cheap to deploy, it doesn’t have the artistry of bespoke coding. For those on our team with the experience and interest in working with Shopify as our launching platform, we found that we did not have the capacity to fully manage a project this large on our own.
With our capacity concerns, we knew it was vital to identify a web support and maintenance solution in order for us to scale quickly once our marketplace launches. Our in-house tech team advised that we hire a contractor to support the development of our marketplace as a means to meet our goals within our timeline.
With expertise in our chosen marketplace structure, the ability to work quickly within our deadline, and to provide ongoing support and maintenance as we scale, it was a unanimous decision to search for a contractor and fundraise to cover the necessary costs.
The hired contractor will work for our co-op under the direction of the Tech Team members in our Sociocracy General Circle. Our Tech Team members will still be doing much of the work to save costs. The Tech Team will also provide oversight and direction to ensure the marketplace prioritizes the needs of our cooperative.
We researched our options and identified a short list of contractors. We specifically sought out and had a preference for working with values-aligned developers and service providers.
We next attempted to obtain estimates from co-op tech development firms, using the USFWC worker-owned cooperatives directory and a provider list from Start.coop. However, similar to many of our volunteers, they either had no interest in working with Shopify, or simply lacked capacity and were booked through the end of the year.
Finally, we reached out to a few Shopify specialist development companies from the Shopify Experts directory and our networks. We received a few quotes and the choice became obvious.
The winning quote was both lower in price and had a higher quality service. We decided to contract with YellowWebMonkey, a woman- and veteran-owned firm who truly believes in what we’re doing. The principal, Alexis Priddy, is an artisan herself. This firm has an established tech support program to help us build an ongoing relationship and provide a tech support solution for artisans and customers before we can hire full-time staff.
Phase I Marketplace: Fundraisers
June – July. Our Phase I marketplace will be an elegant transition from our current website. We will carry over much of the existing content into a new Shopify site, but add on a small fundraiser marketplace. It will be developed jointly by our Tech Team and YellowWebMonkey.
This early marketplace will be a small controlled pilot of the real thing. This front-loads the basic design of the site, while saving the majority of the features we want for later development. It will have an improved Shop Directory for our Artisan waitlist. It will include the marketplace technology we will be using for the full marketplace so we can begin testing the functionality of the marketplace features in a small, manageable experiment.
Our first vendors will be those who are willing to host mutual-aid fundraiser items for the co-op. This will make the co-op website a shoppable marketplace for co-op themed items.
>>> We need more fundraiser items! Learn more about how you can join. <<<
Phase II Marketplace: Founders & Early Members
August – September. In Phase II, we’ll be adding more critical “Top 10” features to the website and expanding enrollment to first, our Founders Circle, and second, our first Artisan members. The website will get more robust with a better labeling, search, and filter system.
These artisans will be the designers and testers of the new handmade verification system and shop onboarding process as we develop manuals, how-to guides, and forms. As they onboard and we work out the kinks in the system, the number of shoppable items on the website will continue to grow.
Phase III Marketplace: Open Enrollment
September – October. In Phase III, we’ll be scaling up, opening the marketplace to non-member artisans, and introducing additional features to the website. This will be our official October launch of the Artisans Cooperative handmade marketplace.
We are excited to be hiring a contractor to work with us to build our handmade marketplace. As we identified in our Funding Plan, founding members are crucial to our marketplace development. We are now in a place where we could get started tomorrow if we had the funds available, and that’s why you’ll be hearing from us next about our Capital Campaign. Get ready!
What do you think about this plan? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
About Artisans Cooperative
We are growing an online handmade marketplace for an inclusive network of creatives: a co-op alternative to Etsy.
Shop the marketplace!