November 2, 2011
OrderWithMe, the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing and a graduate of Chinaccelerator, wants to help small businesses in the United States buy from Chinese factories – at the same low prices as big companies buying in bulk. By grouping together orders, the Hangzhou-based startup lets those small businesses order any quantity of purses, sunglasses, or other fashion products. The order goes through if the factory’s minimum is met.
Here are a few lessons to be gleaned from OrderWithMe, which beat out 400 other startups to win:
Offer unquestionable value. By cutting out the middlemen, OrderWithMe can reduce prices and unsold inventory for businesses. The value they offer is something like: “Instead of spending $20 on a purse, pay us $8 and order however many you want.”
Explain your motivations. One Disrupt judge commented that it really makes sense for founder Jonathan Jenkins to be working on OrderWithMe, given his history. Jenkins started a small but rapidly successful business buying women’s fashion from Chinese factories and selling it in the United States. Explaining this history also highlighted Jenkins’s experience finding the right factories to source from, which is a key component of the service. Four of OrderWithMe’s 9 team members – 2 Americans and 2 Chinese people, led by Jenkins’s wife – work on selecting the highest-quality products from the factories.
Know who your customers are. On a related note, it was clear that Jenkins knew his customers – he talked about the vagaries of inventory and the poor economic conditions facing struggling US business owners. This contrasts with several other finalists, who were repeatedly asked who their customers were.
With such value to offer, OrderWithMe has already received requests from small businesses in Europe, South America, and Japan. “We think this could definitely be a worldwide need. Our biggest challenge is going to be scaling up,” says Jenkins.
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