AllPeople Marketplace is a new entrant to the world of ethical marketplaces. Their ambition is to change the way we use our voices and our wallets by gathering high-quality, safe products that prioritize environmental and social impacts and having customers at the top of their business model. AllPeople is creating an ever-growing community of responsible, like-minded people, brands, and nonprofits who make conscious purchasing decisions to help ignite positive change.
Humans are habitual, and it can be challenging to change patterns unless they have a reason. AllPeople Marketplace gives three reasons—company ownership, cost savings, and charitable donations.
Its equitable business model leads intrinsically motivated customers to shop at AllPeople to buy the brands they already know, trust, and love. AllPeople is 100% customer and employee-owned and every aspect of its model finally, and rightfully, places people before profits. Its business model, including funding and word-of-mouth marketing, creates a customer-centric system that inherently reduces wasteful expenses, allowing its products to be sold at the lowest price on the market and the savings to be donated to customers’ choice nonprofit, charity, or school.
I caught up with the founder of AllPeople Marketplace, Bill Wollrab to discover more about this progressive and innovative business model and how consumers can spark social and environmental change.
Bill Wollrab started the discussion by shedding light on his previous endeavors that got him to start AllPeople Marketplace by crowdfunding. “I was one of the founders of the Yard House restaurant chain which sold to the Olive Garden for $575 million in 2012. I mention this only to describe how we raised our first million dollars for this successful venture. I told my partners that we should raise money from a large group of small investors versus a small group of large investors because I thought that the more investors we had, the more loyal customers we would have,” Wollrab explained.
This turned out to be very true, but it also created so much buzz in the local community that it allowed them to cut their marketing costs in half compared to other restaurants and therefore greatly increased our profit margins.
In 2016, he became aware of the new equity crowdfunding legislation which was passed by Congress, and he knew that a similar strategy could be used to acquire both customers and investors simultaneously but on a much larger scale.
AllPeople is an online marketplace that sells most of the staple products that consumers are already purchasing on a regular basis but where it gives them the opportunity to invest in the company with as little as $100. By doing this, AllPeople Marketplace achieves these goals:
- AllPeople is creating the ultimate customer-centric business model where customers are very loyal to the AllPeople brand. Simultaneously the company is greatly reducing its marketing expenses, thereby significantly reducing its customer acquisition costs or CAC which creates a much higher customer lifetime value or LTV.
- AllPeople is creating a more fair and equitable business model which rewards its customers/investors through profit sharing rather than having most of the profits go to billionaires and institutional investors.
- The AllPeople model also motivates its customers/investors to be its evangelists by incentivizing them to tell their friends and family about AllPeople as well as to post on their favorite social media channels.
“They know that the more they advocate for us, the more we grow which only has a positive effect on the stock value. The second AllPeople competitive advantage is having another low-cost customer acquisition strategy where we partner with nonprofits and schools or PTOs,” Wollrab added. AllPeople Market provides these organizations with the tools to market AllPeople to their supporters and families where 5% of each purchase is donated to their organization. This is ten times as much as the Amazon Smile program which recently ceased to exist.
Again, AllPeople is utilizing very effective and low-cost word-of-mouth marketing instead of expensive paid advertising. He emphasized, “We would rather give this money to your favorite nonprofit or your children’s school instead of Google and Facebook. We currently have a group of nonprofit partners with over one million supporters.”
AllPeople Marketplace product prices are very competitive because the company’s greatly reduced marketing costs allow it to offer lower product prices while building a more profitable business model for its customers and investors.
We talked more about the opportunity for customers to invest in the company. Customers own and invest in AllPeople through JOBS Act and Performance-Based Funding, creating a deep-rooted connection to the company. Wollrab explained, “JOBS Act is the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act that now allows for non-accredited investors, meaning non-millionaires, meaning 92% of the rest of the population, to invest as little as $100 in new startup companies. Performance-Based Funding greatly mitigates investment risk and incentivizes the consumer to help us grow. We put the responsibility on us to reach our milestones before we ask the customer/investor to invest. Only when we reach our next milestone can consumers increase their investment, thus motivating consumers to continue sharing our business and shopping on our site.”
As for the selection of products that are listed on the AllPeople Marketplace, Wollrab added, “Our products put the desires of our customers first. AllPeople focuses on the pantry, personal care, and health and beauty. We offer products that are nonperishable, easy to ship, have high margins, and are aligned with the socially responsible, non-toxic, eco-friendly values of our customers.”
Wollrab elaborated more on the successful customer acquisition strategy and building a customer-centric model. Because AllPeople’s equitable business model allows products to be offered at the lowest price possible, 5% of each purchase is donated to a nonprofit, school, or charity of the customers’ choice. On Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter, people share the latest news, graphic, or stat that signals their values and beliefs to their followers. Thus, people will be eager to share where they not only just found their favorite brand at an affordable price, but also donated to a cause they believe in. “We also offer discounts when customers refer friends and family and share on their social media feeds. The customer/investor becomes the marketer, organically fostering word-of-mouth marketing that has a zero to a low-cost strategy of acquiring and retaining customers. Word-of-mouth marketing reduces extraneous costs, which helps build our customer-centric model,” he concluded.
AllPeople Marketplace gives consumers a reason to switch where they shop and excites them to use their voices, decisions, and wallets to create social and environmental change. Its model is one many marketplaces could learn from.