By Parag Deulgaonkar
Sprii.com currently lists over 45,000 childcare products from over 1,000 brands on its e-commerce platform
Dubai-based Sprii.com is planning to double its distribution partnership network by year-end and will commence a new round of fundraising in 2018, according to company founder and CEO.
In February, British expat Sarah Jones rebranded her Mini Exchange, an online marketplace for childcare products, to sprii.com.
The e-commerce platform currently lists over 45,000 products from over 1,000 brands and has raised $4.1 million (AED15.05m) to date from UK and Middle East investors.
“We will increase the number of products listed on our site by year-end and will double our 250 distributor network in the next six months. We will start our next round of fund raising in 2018,” Jones said, addressing a large gathering at the Arabian Business StartUp Academy event.
The company plans to expand its reach to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Though glamour and glitz was associated with a startup, Jones admitted that the job wasn’t easy.
“Getting the website built is the easiest part but then scaling the business is incredibly tough. A startup job though looks very glamorous, but actually it’s really tough.”
She termed her first fund raising round as her “biggest achievement”.
“Convincing people to invest in you, convincing people that you have an amazing idea and getting them part with their money is especially tough in this region. So we raised our first million dollars in London as investors there were sophisticated and understood e-commerce.”
Jones advised startup entrepreneurs to adopt the debt-to-equity route when seeking funding and to begin the hunt for investors without any delay.
“We got a lot of rejections but remember one must be realist, have a lot of thick skin, be very tenacious and very passionate about what they do because fund raising isn’t easy.”
The second “seed funding” round of $3m was completed in eight weeks with investors coming from the Middle East region.
“The new funding allowed us to move forward and sign a lot more partners, have everything in-house and have the full freedom on how to run the business.”
Jones disclosed the choice of rebranding didn’t come easy, particularly when it came to naming the website.
“Rebranding wasn’t easy as we had to rebrand everything and even make our suppliers understand the importance of the move,” she said, revealing sprii name was came from words “shopping spree”.
When 14, Jones started her own eBay business, sourcing products from China and America as they were cheaper than products sold in the UK. She made $10,000 over a four-year period and used the money to pay her university fees.
“My dream was always to be the CEO of eBay. I wasn’t too sure how I was ever going to went up there but that is where I wanted to be one day.”
She admitted running her business give us not time to rest, compared to her cushy corporate job.
“You really don’t switch off. I used to look forward to that annual leave but now I don’t ever get an annual leave. I work every weekend. If you are setting up a company, you need to love it and love what you do,” Jones concluded.