Find out the Invaluable Ecommerce Lessons this Fashion Accelerator Teaches its Entrepreneurs

Updated on 2 February 2018

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You don’t have to launch your own ecommerce website to sell your product online – there are alternatives.

This is what Tania Habimana, co-founder of the fashion accelerator, Threads, shared with their Eastern Cape-based fashion entrepreneurs who were chosen for the programme.

Habimana is a Rwandan, Europe-raised, Pan African-based entrepreneur with a background in fashion.

Threads is an initiative by marketing agency, Nonzero, in collaboration with Standard Bank, with the aim of  boosting South Africa’s up-and-coming fashion designers. The 12-week programme, curated by the University Cattolica of Milan, focuses on the business operations of a fashion enterprise from financing and retaining employees, to lean manufacturing and ecommerce, as well as specialised procurement methods and marketing.

It is taught simultaneously from four regional classroom hubs: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth. The entrepreneurs’ businesses range from jewellery and luxury shoe brands to belts and handbag design houses and denim wear brands.

Don’t allow the high cost, admin and demands on resources to stand in your way. Here are some alternatives, from Habimana, that entrepreneurs should explore, and the small print you should not ignore.

1. Third-party Websites

Third-party websites are a good alternative, said Habimana. These are multi-brand websites which work as an aggregator of multiple brands, well-known examples include Spree and Zando. They can be especially useful for entrepreneurs looking to break into the global market.

“Because third-party websites have been in operation longer than you, they will have higher levels of traffic and their own customer base,” said Habimana.

“This traffic can be very advantageous for new entrepreneurs as it will open their products up to a larger audience, allowing new markets to discover and take an interest in their brands,” she added.

2. Online Marketplaces

Another good option for entrepreneurs who prefer to maintain their brand identity are online marketplaces, said Habimana.

“Advertising on third-party websites can cause loss of identity because their identity may not be in line with your branding,” she said.

Marketplace websites differ in that they are made up of  several stores on one website, “therefore allowing entrepreneurs to have more control over their brand’s identity”, examples include Ebay and Etsy. Locally there is Hello Pretty which showcases the work of local creatives.

3. Know the ins and outs

There are three key requirements that all entrepreneurs must remember if they decide to take these options, says Habimana.

  1. Have your own website, even if it doesn’t have ecommerce capabilities – this shows you have credibility, she said.
  2. Ensure you have sufficient stock. “The ‘out of stock sign’ translates to a bad online shopping experience for customers,” said Habimana.
  3. Remember that third-party websites and marketplaces take a commission.

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