A new startup is helping influencers design and manufacture their own products
- The startup Pietra is launching a marketplace for influencers to create their own product lines.
- Its platform connects creators with product designers, manufacturers, and warehouse companies.
- Influencers can use Pietra to make items in categories like coffee, clothing, and makeup.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
For internet stars, selling products with their name or likeness is a popular business strategy.
Influencers with millions of followers from TikToker Addison Rae Easterling to YouTuber MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) are launching makeup brands, coffee subscriptions, and burger franchises. Other content creators are doing lighter-lift projects like putting catchphrases on t-shirts. Creators launched self-branded products in droves last year as some advertisers cut back on influencer marketing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now a new startup called Pietra wants to lower the barriers to entry so more creators can test out direct-to-consumer sales.
The Andreessen-Horowitz-backed company, which officially launched out of beta on Monday, built a marketplace to connect creators of all audience sizes with product designers, suppliers, warehouses, and fulfillment companies. Users of the tool can choose to create products in a variety of categories, including coffee, clothing, and fragrances.
“Anyone with the drive and motivation to bring their idea to life can get access to the same infrastructure that the top creators historically have gotten,” Pietra cofounder Ronak Trivedi told Insider. “You no longer need to fly around the world. Find a factory. Beg them to work with you. Plead for low minimums. We’re trying to build a world where a creator, a single creator, can create the next best-selling brand.”
While the concept of celebrity-branded products isn’t new — actors and professional athletes have been doing it for decades — the arrival of social-media stars into the category has added something new to the equation. Influencers are experts at digital marketing, having built their personal brand from scratch on social media. They know how to pitch consumer goods (and themselves) to fans.
While in beta, Pietra worked with influencers like YouTuber Hailey Sani (1.4 million subscribers) and fashion and lifestyle creator Ella Rose McFadin (108,000 Instagram subscribers) to launch clothing and skincare brands.
How Pietra works
Designing a product on Pietra before it goes into production is free. Then the influencers cover the costs of manufacturing any items they design.
Pietra itself charges a handling fee for any samples ordered, and a flat production fee to create up to 500 units of an item. It charges incremental fees for any product assembly, quality assurance, or warehouse work after the first 500 units are made, and additional fees for services like shipping and fulfillment. Users can avoid these costs by handling some of these tasks themselves, though most opt into Pietra’s full-service offering, Trivedi said.
When asked whether Pietra takes steps to ensure the ethical treatment of workers at its partner factories and warehouses, the company said it does reference checks and visits most partner facilities to conduct interviews and ensure that the companies are certified as appropriate.
Some of its supply partners offer creators the option to produce fair-trade, Kosher, vegan, or cruelty-free products. The company also said it trains its suppliers to look out for and stop the production of products and designs that are “illegal or immoral.” Merchandise companies like Spring have run into issues with hate speech designs appearing on their platforms in the past.
Pietra has no requirements like minimum follower counts for users interested in testing out its platform. The company passes on the costs of developing a product on its marketplace to the influencer, so it faces little risk if an item flops.
Shifting from ride sharing to influencer products
Before cofounding Pietra, Trivedi spent three years at Uber working on the company’s ride-sharing product, UberPool. In 2019, Trivedi and Pietra’s other cofounder Pan Pan, another Uber staffer, raisd $4 million in seed funding from fellow Uber alum Andrew Chen of Andreessen Horowitz, as well as angel investors like Scooter Braun, Will Smith, and Robert Downey Jr.
Pietra’s original idea was to build a marketplace for jewelry sellers. It shifted its focus to content creators after finding that its most successful sellers were using social media to pitch their wares.
Now that it’s out of beta, Pietra’s six-person team plans to up its outreach to social-media stars as it leans into the creator economy.
“We see tremendous appetite with creators and I think we are going to go out and try and partner with all of the creator community,” Trivedi said. “Whether it’s managers and agencies. Talent agencies. We’ve been talking to all the social-media platforms and being like, ‘How can we work together?’ Because at the end of the day, everyone’s trying to make these creators successful, and commerce is a huge portion of it.”
Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Uber.
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