Merchant View: A 'Retail Robin Hood'

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jun. 6, 2011 12:00 am  

Stan Zylowski, president and co-founder of Merchant View, thinks of his firm as a retail Robin Hood, helping the retail industry save millions lost annually to fraud and inefficiency.

His Sherwood Forest is northwest Arkansas, where Zylowski and fellow co-founder April Seggebruch met while working on their MBAs at the University of Arkansas and hatched their idea for a retail software business.

Merchant View aims to help retailers and suppliers save money on inefficient practices through data collection and delivery. Zylowski said about $200 million a year is lost to fraud and inefficiency in the retail industry.

"In a sense, Merchant View is playing Robin Hood, and we're certainly proud of that moniker," he said.

Originally, the Merchant View business plan was strictly an academic exercise. But a couple of years after earning their degrees, Seggebruch and Zylowski realized Merchant View could be much more than that. Both worked for Spectrum Brands in northwest Arkansas when they decided to become entrepreneurs in May 2010. (Seggebruch is a former Lady Razorback basketball player from the mid-2000s.)

Zylowski said most of the losses and expenses incurred in the retail industry simply aren't necessary. Merchant View's software enables retailers and suppliers to "efficiently manage remote employees, control their expenses and maximize sales."

"This is not an issue of incompetence or apathy," Zylowski said. "The losses are driven by poor tools and a deeply decentralized system. With Merchant View, suppliers and retailers will be able to take back the money being pilfered and use it to drive growth."

Merchant View is about halfway through a $530,000 funding round that will pay for a pilot test and "keep us in shoes through the remainder of 2011."

"A few exciting and unexpected opportunities have arisen over the last few weeks, so we're exploring new applications for our system infrastructure," Zylowski said. "If those make sense, we may be a bit bigger, a bit faster, than expected."

 

Skydiving Without a Parachute

For many, leaving the steady income and benefits of the corporate world isn't an easy decision. Zylowski likened it to skydiving, with a twist.

 

 

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