Screenshot of MiniExchange for Eid sale.
Mini Exchange, an outlet for childrens retailers' and an online marketplace for parents to buy everything related to mums and kids needs, announced today closing its seed fundraising round of over $1 million.
Founder Sarah Appleton, a British expat in Dubai who quit her job at Deloitte and launched Mini Exchange early last year, told Wamda during a call that she used convertible notes for her seed round because the process was relatively quick.
Appleton said it took just three to four months to close the round, which “puts us in a good position for our next round”.
The investment came from angels in Europe and the Middle East, and a small VC in Europe.
Appleton declined to share specific names, but she did say that the the angel investors include the CFO of one of the largest media companies in the region, a board member at a large educational group, a former board member at GAP who is now a professor at the London Business School, and someone from the banking sector.
“We’ve created an informal board of advisors and we meet regularly,” Appleton said. “This was of great support for me.”
Her angel investors are experts in different sectors (social, ecommerce, media, retail, legal, financial), and her decision to involve Europeans was deliberate as “ecommerce is more developed there than in the region”.
What changed and where is money going?
Appleton has made some drastic changes in the way Mini Exchange does business over the past year.
The platform initially encouraged parents to buy and sell products, new or like-new. But to keep customers from thinking that all products on Mini Exchange are second hand, Appleton canceled the selling option.
Speed and scalability were additional motivators.
“There is definitely a space for a second hand products business in the region,” Appleton noted. “The service was actually doing very well. But for us to scale quickly, it made more sense to focus on one side of the business only.”
She also reconfigured logistics to remove barriers to scale.
When Mini Exchange first launched, the platform stocked goods in warehouses before delivering orders to customers. Appleton has since eliminated warehouses, and all goods today go directly from seller to buyers.
To make this system work, the team integrated Mini Exchange with retailers’ warehouses. When an order is received, Fetchr picks up the product from the seller’s warehouse and delivers it to the buyers.
“I want to keep the site as a tech focused platform, ideally with no products ever touching us physically,” Appleton said. “I think this makes for a nice business model that is appealing to investors.”
Nevertheless, Appleton is using the investment to expand her team and digital marketing. With 300 brands on the site currently, the company is adding an average of two to three new regional brands per day.
Additionally, Mini Exchange just started getting international brands on board, which will give buyers from the region the opportunity to buy products that were not available in the region.
“Through its deal with UPS, Fetchr will also be working on the global distribution,” she said.
Appleton said she is aware of the competition in this sector, and is working to up her game as fast as possible.
“I already see us as a tech only platform, a real marketplace.”