In today’s world, women are starting businesses from their homes at an astonishing rate. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly difficult for them to attract local clients and customers without a brick-and-mortar shop. 80% of consumer spending is controlled by women, but only 4% of all spending goes to women-owned businesses. Overall, approximately 9M women operate businesses from their homes.
Her mission was to enable these women to channel their homegrown talents into successful businesses. She realized that some of her favorite businesses operated locally– “in kitchens, bedrooms, and garages”–and were led by women who lived busy lives, crafting and creating in their personal downtime. In order to create a new economy for this untapped network of women who deserved a space to sell their goods and services, Lyn needed to create a marketplace. She needed to build a platform to act as the interface for women-led, home-based businesses and local consumers. She partnered with OAK’S LAB to build her product from scratch.
Lyn wanted the marketplace to ultimately promote female entrepreneurship by building a community of empowered female entrepreneurs. To make this happen, we needed to create a marketplace mobile app that women could use to sell their goods and services and transact with local consumers, and we also needed to create an admin solution for West Tenth to have overall control of the marketplace, including the ability to manage the influx of storefronts and the overall respectability of the space. A digital storefront with localization features would help consumers discover more female business owners, and it would encourage more women to transform their side passion projects into part-time or full-time jobs.
We implemented our product development process, the OAK’S LAB WAY, to develop the West Tenth marketplace in distinct phases to ensure we built the best possible solution for their users.
First, because we worked remotely with the West Tenth team, we needed to establish an effective cooperation framework with Lyn. We created a virtual office and an efficient call and meeting structure with the intent of emulating the feeling of an in-house team. We also hosted the West Tenth team personally at our HQ in Prague, which enabled us to solidify our working relationship and align our overall goals.
Before we built the West Tenth marketplace, we conducted in-depth market research, scoped out the product, prioritized which key features we needed to implement, and set up the software architecture. Key discoveries in this phase were the need for a cloud-based infrastructure, geolocation technology in order for users to connect with local vendors, and payment integration in order for transactions to be completed.
Our design approach was to make the user-facing app and the web app modern, elegant, and straightforward. Together with the West Tenth team, we created an elite and aspirational aesthetic that conveyed a tight-knit community atmosphere with an air of a modern Main Street. We designed the product in a way that helps users complete their tasks easily and efficiently, resulting in a seamless user experience for both vendors and consumers.
From the engineering perspective, our main tech requirement was a fast and scalable solution that would allow us to quickly launch the MVP and be ready for marketplace user volume. We went with the industry standard tech stack, mainly pursuing the goal of a reliable and scalable solution. We wanted to focus on building a marketplace, not maintaining an over-engineered stack.
We selected NodeJS as a platform for backend development and React for frontend because they have a huge development community behind them and drastically speed up development. This made sense in order to make the MVP scalable. We chose to develop the mobile app using React Native given that it is a single code base for both operating systems (iOS and Android), which would make mobile development easier for further development. And for our cloud-based infrastructure, we used Google Firebase and App Engine.
At the end of our product development process we delivered a user-facing iOS mobile application, a management portal, and a marketing website that allowed business owners to connect and transact with local consumers.
The digital storefront now offers goods and services in 9 different categories and has a total of over 3,000 business owners registered as sellers. West Tenth now operates in 29 locations across the US and continues to champion home-based, women-led businesses.
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