The inspiration for Rupal Ismin's new website came from her Indian grandfather, who despite being so poor he couldn't afford shoes, donated 10 per cent of everything he earned to charity.
Andable, launched last week, is a website with a social mission. It offers independent merchants a chance to sell their wares, and 10 per cent of every sale goes towards a small business loan to an individual in need.
The site, which is a collaboration between Ismin, Melissa Dean (former state sales director of ninemsn) and web development agency Interesting, sells everything from children's toys, to organic skin care products, underwear made from bamboo and reusable takeaway coffee cups.
For instance, brand Mokosh sells certified organic, preservative free skincare, made with fair trade ingredients. Betty + Cash sells handcrafted silver jewellery. Angus and Celeste sells handcrafted pottery and porcelain jewellery.
Every product is tagged with a FRESH badge, which stands for fair trade, reusable, eco-friendly, supports local business and handmade, allowing sellers to communicate to consumers what their product stands for.
Sellers receive 85 per cent of every sale straight away. Five per cent goes to Andable as commission and 10 per cent goes towards an individual small business loan to a person in a developing country. After three months, sellers receive the 10 per cent back from Andable, guaranteed.
It's an interesting sales channel for designers and creative types, especially those operating from regional or rural Australia, who can sell their products cost-effectively knowing that they're doing better business.
Andable already has sellers from locations as diverse as Byron Bay and Fremantle. Some merchants have chosen to go exclusively with Andable due to its social mission.
“The site is about independent sellers in Australia helping independent businesses in emerging countries. My personal goal is to make people more connected to what they buy,” Ismin explains.
The Sydneysider says sellers appreciate the low-cost nature of the platform, which allows them to list their products for free, without giving up too much of the retail price to Andable. More than 150 sellers had signed up for Andable before the site had even launched.
“The idea is for us to provide sellers with the business side of their operations, their marketing and an easy way to sell online,” says Ismin.
Andable has partnered with Kiva, a non-profit provider of micro finance, to facilitate the loans. Sellers and buyers can also find out about the businesses that their products and purchases are helping. Ismin says Andable's sellers are usually more aware of the power of micro lending than the mainstream.
Kiva's existing fan base in Australia – its second largest market - is one of the reasons why Ismin thought Andable (which comes from the expression 'willing and able') would work here.
“We wanted to work with Kiva because it is very transparent about the way it lends. They find borrowers working with micro finance institutions with a high credit rating and Kiva has a repayment rate of about 99 per cent, which is much higher than commercial lenders,” Ismin says.
Ismin had the idea to start the business about a year ago when she attended a conference in New York about micro finance. Her frustration with the dearth of good quality products developed by smaller operators and a general lack of options to buy well-made products were other reasons why she started the business with her two business partners.
Previously she had worked in digital advertising, after arriving in Australia the US five-and-a-half years ago with her husband. The couple planned to stay for only a couple of years to experience a different way of life, but last year became Australian citizens. They are expecting their first child in a few weeks.
Andable currently operates in five countries, although Ismin has plans to expand the business around the globe.
In the next six months, Ismin plans to extend the site's product range, so that Andable becomes become a place where people can buy everyday groceries such as cleaning goods alongside niche products.