When Sarah McIlroy founded her first company, FashionPlaytes, she noticed a trend in the e-commerce platform. By giving her target market, girls aged five to 12, a way to communicate, share ideas and collaborate in designing the clothes they’d be wearing, she realized that an online community began to build. After launching in 2009, the customizable clothing e-commerce company was being driven in part by the girls who loved it.
So McIlroy, a self-described “entrepreneur at heart,” decided to use this community model to launch in a different market.
EllaSole, currently on its last crowdfunding day of a near-successful Kickstarter campaign, lets anyone design and customize their own jewelry online. To commemorate a special occasion, or to simply make a piece of new jewelry – rings, necklaces, earrings and the like – more meaningful, the products on EllaSole, McIlroy hopes, will help boost jewelry to the ever-growing online market.
“It’s a relatively traditional industry,” said McIlroy of the jewelry business, “and i think there’s some room to innovate.” McIlroy acknowledges that some companies have put their jewelry online, but the purpose is mostly for price points and virtual showrooms rather than as an engaging platform. With EllaSole, shoppers can design their own pieces from start to finish, and then purchase directly from the site.
When shopping EllaSole, buyers can either browse the designs pre-made by previous shoppers, use the templates provided by EllaSole, or start fresh. By swapping in different metals, stones and styles, and then adding personalized touches like engravings, buyers are walking away with the exact product they’re looking for, with just as much control as they desire. The best part? EllaSole’s products are sold at an affordable price point, with the average order clocking in under $150, according to McIlroy. This affordability combined with quality also sets EllaSole apart from the current e-commerce jewelry dealer, Gemvara.
While McIlroy acknowledged that jewelry is something that people want to touch, feel and see before buying, she believes a lower price point will give customers confidence to buy something they’re going to like, but on the web. To give customers the best idea of what they’re buying without seeing it in person, EllaSole uses an online tool that serves as a virtual design studio, with realistic renderings, which McIlroy called “unbelievable,” of what a 360-degree view of a product will look like.
In addition to that technology and the perks of customization, McIlroy believes that one of the main benefits of an e-commerce site, even for jewelry, is the reach: EllaSole could eventually reach customers on a global platform. She also spoke to the benefit of an online community, something she first knew to be beneficial when she launched FashionPlaytes.
“My goal is to create an experience, where you design your jewelry and it’s something you really love,” said McIlroy. “I hope people engage with one another and share trends, like how to wear jewelry, or how to mix and match.”
The online community, McIlroy said, will hopefully create content the consumers would like. With FashionPlaytes, the girls who shop on the site are the ones who created that audience.
“So much of it was girl driven – They were creating the content,” said McIlroy. “That’s a lot of power to leverage.”
An added benefit of EllaSole’s target demographic is that McIlroy now has the ability to leverage social media (whereas for FashionPlaytes, the girls were too young to be tweeting or posting to Facebook). On EllaSole, you can create a piece of jewelry, and then share it out, whether it be on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or directly in an email. According to McIlroy, it’s the engagement, both directly between the company’s team and the customers, as well as between customers, that drives the platform.
While McIlroy and her team push to reach their Kickstarter goal and launch the website, she does allude to potential partnerships in the future that could bring EllaSole products to new markets and platforms. For now, though, they’re focusing on building out a visual and original online experience.
“We want to be a leader in innovation and create something that’s unique and, hopefully, very meaningful to someone,” said McIlroy. “Whatever [the occasion] may be, it’s giving people the opportunity to create something beautiful.”
Images via EllaSole