What does retail look like when anyone can launch a brand?
The next phase of retail is individual led.
Enabling this change is Pietra. It enables anyone to launch their own product brand with minimal work and cost by connecting creators to top manufacturers all around the world.
Using its platform, you can choose your product category, design your product and logo, get it manufactured, build an e-commerce website, and even have storage, fulfilment and packaging handled.
As such, Pietra is helping to democratise retail and enable D2C to compete with more established brands.
We spoke to Pietra CEO Ronak Trivedi about why brand is now the differentiator in retail and why some of the most interesting new retail is happening in D2C.
Ronak Trivedi, CEO, Pietra
What does Pietra do?
Pietra is a platform for entrepreneurs, creatives and creators to launch their own product lines.
Our mission statement is to enable a future where a single person can launch the next best selling product line or brand. We do that by focusing on three things that we think are necessary for the future.
One of them is helping people find the top suppliers in the world to work with to make unique products, whether that’s semi-customised, private label products, or fully customised contract manufacturing.
The second part is commerce logistics and all the parts of setting up and running a business that the next generation of businesses don’t need to master. This includes things like fulfilment, storage and warehousing, assembly and packaging, and ecommerce photography. When you subscribe to the platform, you get access to all those services at super low costs.
In the past if you wanted to buy a thousand units of coffee to sell you would have to set up a fulfilment centre and a warehouse etc. Now you can just check a box while checking out and Pietra will receive the product from the supplier and globally fulfil it for you anywhere in the world.
Then the third part is our ecommerce and creator marketplace. We have software that allows you to quickly set up a website and start selling online. Those websites are optimised for mobile, for social media, and allow a lot of these content creators to very quickly go to market and start selling.
By bringing together these three things – manufacturing, order fulfillment and storage and commerce services – you have a business in a box solution for anyone who wants to start a business.
How does the platform work?
We give you a blueprint of things you’ve got to do and help you do them.
You’ve got to find a supplier. Here are the recommended suppliers. You’ve got to find a product line. Here are the best product lines that are selling online. You need a logo. Click here to hire a designer to design your logo.
All these little things that we’ve done make it a step-by-step process that takes away the mental hurdles that you have.
We’ve taken the necessary services to make a brand and we’ve allowed people to purchase those services through the platform in an eloquent way. We’ll have creators who want to source from suppliers on our marketplace, but then send the first couple of hundred units to their garage to ship out of their garage, so they don’t have to pay Pietra for fulfilment or storage or e-commerce photography.
We allow you to do that. Because it’s modular you don’t have to eat the cost upfront. You don’t have to put up these crazy minimums. You don’t have to pay for storage space that you’re never going to use. You never have to assemble a thousand units that may or may not sell.
We aren’t making the product. We are literally plugging you into someone on the other side of the world or elsewhere in your country that can enable your business.
This allows you to chat in real-time with any factory in the world and even have them make something completely new for you that has never existed before in the world. They might be like ‘to make this prototype, it’s going to cost $100 or whatever’, so there’s a cost associated with it, but the creativity is not limited. You can make anything you want.
What types of creators are you working with?
We never targeted influencers explicitly, but we recognise that influencers and content creators have such a huge opportunity for starting their own commerce businesses. They’re a natural fit for the platform because one huge part of the equation is made a lot easier.
We continue to see a lot of excitement from these creators who are like ‘I have 10 times more followers than the brands that I’m promoting for and now you’re telling me that I can actually have my own company?’
As we grow, we start seeing that people who are becoming more successful don’t fit the traditional influencer mould. We see smaller creators who have a very tight knit community or a great idea launching products and building small D2C communities faster and better than some of the celebrities and the bigger influencers.
The platform has become appealing to almost everyone that wants to start an online business. We flip the model so that 80% of the stuff is automated and standardised and you don’t have to worry about it. And the 20% that used to be the fun part of why you started this business can now become your 80%.
Can you tell us about your biggest success stories?
There are multimillion-dollar brands in their own right and everything in between.
We have quite a few people who are successful with an exclusive model where products are only sold for a short while, which is really exciting to see.
The biggest learning that we have is that traditionally success for a brand is selling as much product that you can, but we’re finding that success has many different definitions for different types of creatives.
People can start diversifying incomes and running these businesses without dedicating their entire lives in 20 out of 24 hours a day. To them, success is freeing up the time to continue to make content and build their audience.
For us as a company, we look at success as enabling people with ideas to start these businesses.
I think in the past when people think made to order for the most part it has been relatively cheap garments that you slap a logo on like mugs, t-shirts and cell phone cases.
The last 10 years has been a tremendous time for the made to order ecosystem. You can now make any product in the world. Our job is to make that super easy.
It’s a true evolution that we’re seeing that they’re not trinkets and knick-knacks, they’re true product lines and capsule collections and things you would see in a store.
If you want to start your own clothing brand, you’re probably spending tens of thousands of dollars in costs over two or three years to get a brand off the ground. With Pietra, you can launch a fully loaded brand, that looks and feels like a brand that has existed for 10 years, in 60 to 90 days with a few thousand dollars upfront.
If you want to launch a line of accessories, like sunglasses or earrings, you could probably do it for $500. It all depends on how much inventory you want to buy and how much you want to prove out your market.
Are there any limitations to what people can make through Pietra?
From a platform perspective, we have a network of approved factories around the world that we work with. We have a team that goes around the world visiting factories, checking the quality and looking at sample runs.
Our job is to really find the best suppliers in all categories and bring them to the fingertips of people using the platform.
We’ve also made the platform very flexible so if you find someone that you want to work with that isn’t already in the Pietra network, we train the supplier and take care of all the shipping and logistics and importing and exporting and all that stuff. So, you can make anything you want if you can find someone to do it.
How do you work with your suppliers around smaller order sizes?
All the products that are best-selling now started small, right?
For the most part, what I’ve found is even when you’re a large corporation, you’re not taking the biggest risk in a haphazard way. Everyone is trying to do the smartest thing for their business, which is to de-risk as much as possible, take the minimal investment and try and prove out an idea before it launches.
We work with every supplier to onboard their lowest possible minimum orders. We’ve been super successful in doing that because what our platform offers these manufacturing partners and suppliers from around the world is access to a bunch of creators that will work exactly like they want to work.
Even if they work with multiple people, for example, the manufacturers only have one Pietra portal that they log into. They print one group of shipping labels. They ship to one fulfilment centre that Pietra owns.
So even though they’re servicing 5, 10, 15 different creators, they have one process that is pretty standardised and straightforward, so they can now work with more people on lower volumes.
What is your view on the future of retail?
It’s not that the product doesn’t matter; it’s that when everyone has access to high quality products and beautiful packaging, what becomes the differentiator of a brand?
It’s about branding. It’s about community building. It’s about salesmanship.
I think that the next wave of retail and D2C is not going to be driven by nameless faceless corporations, which is what a lot of big brands are today.
In the past retail was all about access to infrastructure and who could afford real estate, which decided which brands were in the malls and therefore what’s popular.
Then the next wave was brands and people who had access to capital hiring celebrities and putting them on billboards and in ad campaigns.
Now, just like the internet has made real estate free, I think social media has made promotion and marketing a lot more accessible.
Before a creative person would need to be in a mall for their business to have a chance. Now they can just start a website.
Previously you needed to hire celebrities for anyone to even know that your brand exists. Now you can just have an Instagram account.
The third wave is access to factories and the people that can make really cool products. Now with Pietra anyone can have access to those factories and supply chains through the internet.
Brands can’t convince the customer that the product quality of their handbag is going to be better because their supplier will be on our platform.
So, I think the next wave of retail is going to be about the true creative people who are designing those bags and gaining access to these factories and the supply chain. They can just start their own brand.
We’re in the internet age, but now we’re in a mature social age as well. The brands of the next 20 years aren’t going to be like the bland brands in the last 20 years. It’s all about how they’re constructed, how they think about their customer relationship, how they distribute their products.
What’s next for Pietra?
We are dead set on our mission of enabling entrepreneurship in any way, shape or form.
We’re going to start getting deeper and deeper into helping creators with all aspects of business creation and growth. Our job is to continue to make it easier and easier for you to not only launch a brand and run it and grow it, but also things like educating people who necessarily wouldn’t be business owners on how to run profitable, smart businesses.
When we think about taking our mission forward, we think about how we can work with companies like Instagram and Facebook or Tik-Tok so that it feels seamless to launch a brand and start selling through these channels.
How does the platform evolve in that way and continue to digitise the idea of brand creation?
I think this type of radical shift that’s going to happen over the next 10-15 years is all enabled through these social platforms and these new distribution methods. It’s changing the very nature of what it means to be a brand and what you need as a brand to succeed.
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