Jenniffer Gearheart-Tang: We help independent retailers reach new customers and sell their products online easily and affordably.

May 22, 2024

A quick introduction about what your company does/your values/mission.

Makeke is a shop local first, discovery first shopper-tainment app. It works like Etsy meets TikTok. We help independent retailers reach new customers and sell their products online easily and affordably. We help shoppers to find local independent retailers effortlessly so they can shop locally.

Makeke’s vision is to empower local independent retailers, revitalise local economies, and ignite a movement of conscious consumerism that inspires shoppers to embrace sustainable choices.

Our mission is to make a tangible, positive impact by advocating for local businesses and promoting sustainable shopping. With every purchase, we strive to be a catalyst for change, shaping a better future one shopping decision at a time.

Tell us about yourself?

I have 26 years of international work experience. First 10 years was with Korn/Ferry, a global executive search firm where I’ve interviewed over 6000 C-suite executives.

Next 10 years was with Shell International where I was Global Head of Innovation. I created a global innovation collaboration programme called ShellIdeas360 which brought academia, corporates and NGO together to solve global issues like stress nexus and carbon reduction. It went viral with 62Million views across 140 countries within 4 years.

Last 6 years I have been an Entrepreneur and started Makeke as I wanted to help local retailers (the backbone of our economy) to not just survive but thrive in this digital era.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Leave the corporate world and start your own company sooner!

What problem does your business solve?

Imagine this…
What if all the independent retailers in the world disappeared today? How would that impact our daily lives, our choices, diversity and individual unique-ness?

Independent retailers in the UK small business retail sector had been on their knees even before Covid. Global e-commerce giants with deep pockets, massive marketing budgets, ultra-low priced commodity product, overnight delivery options and algorithms that are built to keep customers shopping for more and longer are hard to beat. Gen Z and Millennials instinctively prefer to shop online rather than on the nearest High Street or with local shops to spend their money.

Covid threatened to be the last nail in the coffin for those independent retailers who are only depending on their local footfall for their sales revenue.

In 2023, UK ranks the 3rd largest e-commerce market by online sales. Over 80% of the UK population have bought an item online. 44% of them are millennials and 54% of Gen Z said they will shop entirely online in the next decade. No surprise, Amazon led the UK online market in 2023, earning US$33.6 Billion.
Makeke is a start-up funded by InnovateUK in 2020 to help solve this problem.

We help independent retailers reach new customers and sell their products online easily and affordably. We help shoppers to find local independent retailers effortlessly so they can shop locally.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

4 things inspired Makeke

1) During Covid, I could not reach our local independent shops to buy our daily necessities and found that they were all not equipped digitally to survive in this digital era

2) I started my own side hustle during Covid, I found that to start selling online, you need at least 6 different tools to get a small business going. The market is full of confusing and fragmented tech offerings. There is no one app out there that can help you sell online instantly that is affordable and easy to use.

3) I love to visit sunday markets and pop up shops and found their products unique and amazing. However, its often impossible to find them online or buy easily from them whenever and wherever I want.

4) Gen Z and Millennials wants to support sustainable shopping with local shops but don’t know where to find them.

All of the above triggered the need for a platform that brings local retailers to local shoppers to create a sustainable local shopping eco-system.

What is your magic sauce?

What sets Makeke apart is our hyperlocal approach, where you can choose the exact location in the UK where you like to shop from. Since launching in Nov 2023, we are now live in 12 cities in the Southeast of England and growing.

With Makeke, shopping isn’t just a transaction – it’s a statement of solidarity, a lifestyle, a pledge to support the people and places that make our world a little brighter every day.

This is our David versus Goliath story, where we hope Makeke is the magic sling that independent retailers use to win their battle against the Goliath of the retail industry!

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

This is a problem that not only exist in the UK, it exist everywhere in the world where independent retailers are struggling with the higher cost of trading and are hard-pressed and pushed out by large institutions.

We hope to see Makeke growing a global community of shoppers who together will support all local shops around the world with their shopping decisions.

One day, Makeke will be a global platform where shoppers can feel good about shopping and knowing that their shopping dollars are going to local economies and benefiting local communities.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge so far is reaching out to shoppers to tell them about Makeke. We do not have deep pockets like TikTok or Instagram, so we need help from local communities and support from conscious shoppers to spread our cause.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Time is running out to save these independent retailers from extinction. Everyone can all play a part in doing something small.

If 1 in 10 people in the UK bought an item from independent shops every day, their shopping dollar would not only keep their money circulating within their local economy and community, but also promote a positive social, environmental, and sustainable eco-system.

Being a hero has never been easier! Let your shopping do the talking!

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