Due to Covid-19 and repeated lockdowns, a lot of South African residents lost their jobs, as well as being confined to their homes. I saw the opportunity to try create employment opportunities for those affected in South Africa to potentially make an additional income or make their work seen on a bigger platform. Physical art galleries tend to be exclusive but art is a commodity that can fetch a high price if valued by the right buyers.
What it does
Indie Art Africa is an online art marketplace aimed at creating jobs for local artists in South Africa. Artists, schools, galleries or third party sellers can register as vendors and upload their own artworks to sell online. Each vendor is giving a store page they can make their own and link to their social media and share their details. Indie Art Africa does not deliver or deal in taxes, we are purely a platform allowing artists to sell their work in a world where so many unknown artists go undiscovered. This also encourages artists to take ownership of their business and the processes involved in being a commercial artist.
There is no sign up fee, or fees associated to uploading various artworks. We make a flat 10% Commission on sales, with this model in mind it is our best interest for artists to sell their work. Money is never paid from customer to vendor, Money is deposited into Indie Art Africa's business account and can only be withdrawn from the account by the artist upon successful delivery of the artwork, that way, artists know the money is in the bank and customers have the reassurance that the vendor will not run away with their money.
You do not need to be a South African citizen or proof of residence to sign on, only have a bank account from which we can send funds. In an age where people are hesitant to give away information but also know that connectivity is key in a modern world, people can sign in with their LinkedIn or Facebook accounts.
How we built it
Using a combinations of Woocommerce, Elementor, Dokan plugins, wordpress code, Siteground security and Facebook and LinkedIn API's to allow users to login with social media accounts. As well as Gmail's automated email functionality to communicate between users and the platform of all processes that are updated in real time.
Challenges we ran into
Trying to get people to trust a new marketplace and the handling of money was the first hurdle, to add security and a reputable image I decided to be as honest and transparent about the platform as I could, putting my face to the product and registering a business bank account. This was also at a time when banks and government services slowed down or even closed during a country wide lockdown so that slowed down the process. Also, artists were very demoralised during our lockdown periods due to the lack of government support, so trying to get them to embrace the platform and the idea that this is another means of an income required some attention as well. To keep costs low I decided to build the website myself (so I don't have to worry about high overheads, salaries or other expenses I potentially wouldn't be able to pay), now that the site is up and running, the only cost that I need to cover is the cost of the domain name and hosting.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Putting together an online marketplace with no prior knowledge of web development as well as officially deciding to create a business (during a pandemic). Both fields aren't my forte, and it took a lot to step out of my comfort zone and say that I believe in this idea enough to follow through and get it started.
What we learned
South Africans tend to be hesitant to embrace online marketplaces and functionality so being fully transparent was important. We also don't use Paypal or Stripe in SA, so I had to register a business account with a local bank to provide not only an extra layer of security but also added credibility.
What's next for Indie Art Africa
Indie Art Africa has been selected from a start up selection platform so hopefully we will receive funding and more attention from the global and local community moving forward. Schools and Universities haven't fully opened yet in South Africa, so I'm hoping to get school art departments and their alumni bases on board with the idea of being able to fund their own arts projects going forward when they officially open.