Ethical Community, an online, eco-friendly marketplace (which has plans for a snazzier name in the works!), has secured a £200,000 ($316,640 USD) round of seed funding from a syndicate of angel investors, the company is announcing today. Founded in 2009, the marketplace has signed up over 850 sellers from around the world, who have now listed over 7,000 eco-friendly, organic and natural products including clothing, jewelry, health and beauty products, food and drink items, pet items and more.
The new investors include AlertMe.com CEO and ASOS.com board member Mary Turner, founding partner at Alchemy Partners, Robert Barnes, venture investor Kelvin Au, and CEO of Orange Advertising Networks, Giuliano Stiglitz.
The company was started by entrepreneurs Liam Patterson and Jason Dainter, who had the idea to connect customers to sellers in a more personal way. People want to hear the stories behind the products, explains Patterson. “To conscious shoppers, this story is more important than the visual appearance of the product,” he says.
As someone who is often the recipient of gifts like handmade, dye-free soaps and homemade jewelry, I know from first-hand experience that it’s the story that convinces the eco-friendly shopper to make their purchase. I never receive just the item in question as my gift, I also receive the card telling me about the story behind the product, as well as a personal anecdote regarding the item’s makers.
To be able to make that same one-on-one connection on the sometimes more impersonal platform of the web is a challenge, but one that seems worth the attempt. To personalize the experience, sellers can now create blog posts on the Ethical Community website to share their stories and interests, as well as post videos from their homes or workshops.
Ethical Community, which is based in the startup-friendly Shoreditch area of London, says it will use the seed funding to grow its seller and shopper base, continue its expansion plans, and launch an improved version of the site in the spring.
Admits co-founder Dainter, the focus until today has been acquiring great sellers, but now they’re working on rebranding. “To be honest, the name and brand needs a revamp, and the funding will help in that respect. Structurally, we have a lot of changes coming.”
One of those changes will involve making the video system a more predominant part of the site, and integrating it more heavily into the social feeds.
“Our brand is very much about the personal connection with buyers and sellers. Video is a great way to do that, so we’re intending to build on that,” Dainter says.