You could own where you shop | CIE HotHouse community Incubator to launch customer-owned e-commerce platform
By: Lauren Arendt
What if you could own a piece of Amazon for only $100? Bill Wollrab, one of the original founders of the restaurant chain The Yard House, is on the verge of launching an ecommerce platform called Betterfly that is majority owned by its customers to create a more democratic, equitable shopping experience.
Wollrab said the benefit of shopping in a collaborative model is that customers are able to find nearly any product in a grocery store like Whole Foods, but that for an investment of at least $100, hold stock in the company.
“Its like Amazon, but if Amazon were owned by all of its customers,” Wollrab said. “It’s a dropshipping model, but instead of the profits going to Jeff Bezos or the large institutional investors, the profits are shared with the customers.”
When the site launches in April, more than 5,000 products will be available, but in the future, 20,000 products and services will be available to customers. Wollrab wants Betterfly to be a portal for anything bought online.
Not only do customers own the business, but know exactly what they are buying and how different products could affect their health and the health of the planet. All products will be tested and rated by an independent nonprofit organization to take the time and resources needed to vet out products for customers.
The customer empowerment doesn’t end there. Five percent of company revenue will be donated to charities of the customers’ choice. This is ten times more than Amazon Smile, Wollrab said.
Backed by years of successful entrepreneurial experience, Wollrab chose to work within the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) incubator program for the one-of-a-kind environment of community, support and knowledge.
“It’s encouraging and inspirational to walk into a physical space in the morning with like-minded people who are facing the same challenges that we all face when we try to get into entrepreneurship,” Wollrab said. “Help is not only available but encouraged in this sort of environment.”
Within the environment described by Wollrab, entrepreneurs of diverse experience levels, ages, and levels of progress in their companies thrive. Wollrab said that this diversity is not polarizing but in fact part of why the program is so enjoyable.
“[The incubator] is very inclusive. It doesn’t matter what your age is or anything else,” Wollrab said. “We are all working toward the same goal, which is to create solutions, and people in this environment are not only happy to help, but inspiring each other. It is one giant team up here even though everyone is working on different projects.”
The incubator program is accepting applications from entrepreneurs throughout the San Luis Obispo community. Learn more about the program and submit applications here: https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.