West Tenth & the Unbundling of Local Networks: Personalization as the Next Wave of Commerce
In the last 80 years, the commerce industry has shifted and evolved tremendously, and will continue to do so over the next 80.
The first shift was convenience, led by Walmart, a big box store with which we are all familiar. Their underlying thesis was that rural areas can sustain large box retailers, and consumers should be able to locate everything they need conveniently in a single store location.
The second wave was ultra-convenience — Amazon emerged to give consumers a catalog of products delivered quickly without having to leave the comfort of their own home.
Both have undermined the appeal of localized shopping experiences. Shopping became a transaction activity for customers and almost every product in Walmart and Amazon became a commodity.
Store shelves and online catalogs are so saturated with overly commoditized products that customers are finding themselves with a growing appetite for a brand and maker’s story. The founder and the journey behind creating a product is as important to the consumer as the product itself.
Hence, we are in the early stage of the third distinct paradigm shift in commerce — Hyper-personalization — A movement that will be led by women founders and a new online marketplace, West Tenth.
Women Will Be Leaders in Hyper-Personalized Commerce
Over 15 million US businesses are “home-based” businesses. This means that they operate out of a living room or garage and typically sell one type of product or service. Of these, it’s estimated roughly 30% to be operated by women who are non-employers (solo operators.)
These businesses across the globe are selling the founder’s story and passion as much as they are selling a physical good or service. The customers’ connection to these products and services are often more appealing than the purchase of the product itself.
Customers want an easier way to shop for these women founders, who are leading the way as natural amazing storytellers and brand builders who have longed for a platform to do so.
Enter West Tenth
West Tenth is a new platform that lets customers discover local, home-based businesses in their own towns. Rather than shopping on Amazon for things like beauty products, baked goods, or makeup artists, anyone can use the app to shop brands with a bigger story, while supporting women entrepreneurs in their neighborhood.
The two co-founders Lyn Johnson and Sara Sparhawk are showing women that they can turn their skills into a thriving business and giving those women a supportive, encouraging space to sell their products & services.
Using the app, a buyer can browse through the local marketplace to find unique goods and services. The search option is robust and even allows the customer to sort by distance, photos, description, and pricing. West Tenth makes the buying process seamless with messaging and payments integrations.
But that’s not all West Tenth is doing for women entrepreneurs. The app provides an education component, The Foundry, which includes classes and events through subscription or a la carte.
Now backed with venture capital, West Tenth is expanding its reach and helping even more women advance. I am so enthusiastic about this milestone because my firm Let’s Start Up Ventures is a part of the West Tenth seed round.
Believe it or not, I was connected with the Founder & CEO of West Tenth, Lyn, from a cold Slack DM I met the founders of West Tenth from Lyndsey Boucherle, an investor at Better Ventures. Lyndsey asked if I was interested in getting on the cap table, and as soon as I met with Lyn Johnson, I knew West Tenth was something I wanted to be a part of.
The company fits perfectly within my portfolio, 2 women first-time founders who are building a living and breathing app that I would use. Before I heard of West Tenth, I’d lean on platforms like Etsy and Task Rabbit to help with birthday party planning to photographers to Christmas wrapping. The purpose behind West Tenth was another reason I invested in Lyn Johnson and Sara Sparhawk: to support women makers and small business owners by giving them a storefront and also providing a way for professional women and mothers to outsource what doesn’t bring them joy.
West Tenth is tapping into a powerful dynamic of cross-referrals between sellers/buyers and women who want to support each other within the community. I am looking forward to seeing what more this incredible brand and founder duo do to help women get back in business and progress.