Sharene Lee and her husband, Morrad Irsane, have co-founded various businesses in different sectors in France and the US over the past several years and now this entrepreneurial couple is disrupting the online classifieds scene in the MENA region with their latest Dubai-based venture the no- meetups classifieds Melltoo. Not only are the Melltoo co-founders trying to encourage people in the MENA region to consume more responsibly, they’re also trying to re-engineer the way that people in the region give back to the wider community through their latest CSR initiative- the Melltoo Impacter program.
In this interview, Morrad and Sharene share how Melltoo is building a culture of trust in the online market place and how the Melltoo Impacter program is helping sellers sell their belongings, buyers get great bargains, preloved items get a new lease on life and people in need get the help they need to thrive.
[Full disclosure: I worked for Melltoo for almost a year and a half as their Media Relations Coordinator. Not only did Morrad and Sharene introduce me to the wonderful world of entrepreneurship, they also taught me a lot about how to build a successful business and personal brand. Thank you for all of your valuable lessons!]
1) What is Melltoo and what can users expect from the Melltoo experience?
Melltoo is essentially a “no-meetup classifieds.” Users buy and sell secondhand things without the hassle of meetups. Melltoo facilitates payments and deliveries and secures every transaction with a money-back guarantee.
Buying and selling on Melltoo is a fun and engaging experience. Our average user spends around 18 minutes a day in-app, browsing items for sale, posting and editing items for sale, chatting with others, commenting and managing the funds in their eWallet. In many ways, Melltoo is not only a place to buy and sell, it is a community.
Melltoo is an anglicized version of a French slang word that means “busybody,” which we felt was a perfect name for our startup, because our buyers and sellers are always busy looking through each other’s stuff and trying to get the scoop on the next best buy.
2) In what ways does Melltoo create a sense of community among its buyers and sellers?
Our primary role is to establish trust in the marketplace. Community building takes place organically once trust is in place. When people feel comfortable and safe in a given environment, they will engage with one another without much prodding.
Human beings are social animals, so they naturally gravitate towards each other. In order to establish trust and help our users avoid the inconvenience and potential discomfort of meeting with total strangers, Melltoo handles and secures transactions. We also moderate content and users and we act as the referee if anything goes wrong between users.
3) With various platforms for selling secondhand items in the UAE, what makes Melltoo stand out?
We are the ONLY no-meetup classifieds in the UAE and in the region. If you want to buy and sell without cumbersome meetups, you come to Melltoo.
4) What are Melltoo’s core values and how are you using them to promote change in the UAE?
Our vision is to change the way that our global society consumes things and to make reselling an integral part of the product life cycle. Consumption is unavoidable, so lets do our best to consume responsibly and to reduce our carbon footprint by reselling post-consumption.
We have only one planet and it is everyone’s job to preserve it. We, at Melltoo, realized that we need mass involvement in order to make an impact. Hence our mission is to make buying and selling preowned goods so easy and enjoyable that everybody will participate. Inaction is our greatest enemy, so it’s our job to reduce friction to overcome inaction.
5) What is the Melltoo Impacter initiative?
Locally, there are social norms which prevent people from reselling their preowned items. We often hear users tell us that they are embarrassed to sell their stuff because they don’t want people to think they need money. And in fact, these same people don’t want to sell because they don’t care about the money and would much rather give their stuff away in charity.
Unfortunately, charities don’t have the resources to manage the “stuff” that they receive. Typically, they resell everything they receive by the kilo, which means that they don’t benefit from the true value of items donated. If someone donates an expensive designer bag, it gets bulked and sold off for pennies.
Melltoo Impacter makes this process more efficient. We help people turn their stuff into cash to be spent for a cause. Donors post their items for sale as they normally would, once an order is placed, Melltoo collects payment, picks up and delivers the item to the buyer.
When the sale is complete, sale proceeds are immediately transferred to the charitable cause chosen by the donor. In lieu of cash in their accounts, donors receive “Impact Credit” which is visible in their user profiles and easily shared to encourage participation by others.
In the long run, we want to get corporates involved by allowing donors to redeem their impact credit against loyalty programs at retail stores or airlines as a part of their own CSR programs.
6) What do you hope to achieve through the Melltoo Impactor program?
We hope to break the taboo of buying and selling preowned items. Reselling is not only about money, it is also about consuming responsibly. With Melltoo Impacter, not only can we reduce the negative impact of over-consumption on the planet, we can convert that excess into cash to be used to improve the lives of others that share our society.
7) What advice do you have for new startups who are trying to incorporate CSR into the DNA of their business?
Listen to your users. This isn’t only about CSR, it is about building startups in general. In our case, Melltoo Impacter arose from user feedback and from us listening carefully to our users. Opportunity will present itself if you reflect on what users are saying.
8) What can we expect to see from Melltoo in the future?
We want to continue pushing the boundaries to help people consume responsibly, to this end, we are looking to partner with other organizations and corporate CSR programs to make an impact.
9) How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?
The best way to learn about us is to download the app and start selling. Without much effort, you’ll naturally be drawn into our lively community. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about the Melltoo Impacter initiative, feel free to visit this page.
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