by Mark Carter
Posted 10/7/2013 12:00 am
Updated 6 months ago
Innovate Arkansas client firm Btiques was one of the winners at the inaugural ARK Challenge business accelerator in Fayetteville in fall 2012.
The Fayetteville firm officially launched its boutique shopping app this past summer and currently counts as customers more than 30 boutiques in Fayetteville, Bentonville, Little Rock, Fort Smith, Conway, Cabot and Newport, and Fort Worth, Texas.
Btiques was founded by the sister-brother team of Sara Beck and Will Carter. We caught up with Sara for an update on Btiques’ first few months:
Give us a basic update on where Btiques is right now.
Having launched this past June, we are very pleased to be up and running, with mobile as our first platform arm. Our office is located on the Fayetteville Square, and we are thrilled to be a part of the growing movement of thought leaders, artisans and entrepreneurs who are a part of the square hitting its creative stride. We thrive when getting to know others who are interested in banding together to make something great, whether it’s an environment, a business strategy or a mindset of doing.
Describe exactly how Btiques works.
Btiques is a platform that allows boutique owners to easily post and sell items to their social and mobile customers, allowing for existing and new customers to shop their products right from their phones. Shoppers can choose to pick up items at their local store or have items shipped. It’s that simple.
The whole ARK Challenge experience — how much of an impact has it made?
We don’t intend to stray far from the belief that without the ARK Challenge, our idea would have been merely that. Access to the brilliant, yet humble, business and community leaders in the area and beyond — they challenged us to learn and push and create the business that we have today. The amount of knowledge that we have collected, spanning from implementing a lean canvas as our business plan to immersing ourselves in the world of raising our most recent investment, is priceless, and all gained in less than one year.
Tell us about your growth plans. What does the immediate future hold for Btiques?
We are new and in the learning phase, which is a vulnerable, yet exciting place to be. It means that with extremely hard work, we can lead, follow and discover which direction our business will grow. As many advisers tell us, "Plan on looking nothing like how you started a year from now."
We are proud to have 30-plus boutique customers on our platform. And from Day One, it has been our mission to learn and apply as quickly as possible, so that we can deliver an entirely new customer base and revenue stream for their businesses. Being true to this, we know that purchasing on the Web is critical to scale this model as rapidly as possible and deliver our customers effortlessly consistent sales. While mobile is the future, the Web still reigns as king of e-commerce.
Arkansas has been a wonderful area to start our business, and we look forward to continuing our growth in-state while we also begin selectively acquiring customers throughout the country.
Describe the startup environment in northwest Arkansas right now.
We would say that it is electric, and we love continuing to meet and collaborate with others who are interested in this space, because trying to pull this off in a silo would never work. You have to get out there and get involved.
Is there anybody else out there doing what Btiques does?
While our platforms and marketplace positioning are not the same, our nearest competitor would probably be Snapette, which helps drive shoppers to enter the doors of local stores.
They were recently acquired once they conveyed that shoppers want the option to get access to the products without always having to visit the brick-and-mortar. So while this part of their model is not yet built, it is great validation for us that we are on the right track, having launched a full back-end and mobile platform as our first move.
We put access to unique boutique products right in the shoppers’ hands, and highlight the beauty of the boutique community along the way. For example, be sure to check out our most recent blog post on Maude Boutique owner Becca Brisiel at Insider.btiques.com.
Obviously, your market seems to be geared toward women. Has there been any effort to reach out to men, or could you expand it to include men’s stores?
We love our male shoppers, and the females who shop for them. Currently, we are running digital strategy tests with a company out of Las Vegas called SmashMetrics.
One of our two testing platforms is highlighting the affordable men’s collections from both Brits & Turks and The Mustache, which are two of our customers located here in Fayetteville.
Did you have any technical expertise before you launched Btiques, and how did Innovate Arkansas help?
As rare non-technical co-founders, a mixed group of IA and Gravity Venture Fund members led us to meet and collaborate with the very talented team at RevUnit [another IA client firm] to build and launch our product. While we grow our internal team, we continue to work with RevUnit on a daily basis, both on platform strategy and development, as well as RevUnit’s Michael Paladino being assigned acting CTO of Btiques.
Therefore, we know that creating a great environment, sharing the passion for our vision and motivating greatness is critical for continuing to recruit top technical and creative talent to join us.