Start a Web business in an extra few minutes

Start a Web business in an extra few minutes


By Anupreeta Das
/ Reuters
Thu Mar 20, 3:15 PM ET

When David Pangelinan isn’t logging 14-hour days driving a fuel tanker, he’s at his computer indulging his latest hobby: building a succession of online stores in minutes.

Pangelinan has built four online stores offering hundreds of products for sale, from Bulova watches to Betty Boop pillows, using the Web site Zlio.com.


zlio.jpg
A screenshot of Zlio.com, taken on March 20, 2008.

"It was real easy," said Pangelinan, 43, who lives in Columbus,
Georgia.

Pangelinan said he’s still learning the finer points of
e-commerce, and spends time browsing through thousands of products on Zlio.com’s
catalogue that he could sell.

"I just went in there and started jotting down the products
that were interesting and caught my eye," said Pangelinan, who spends six to 10
hours a week tending to his shops.

Zlio.com, which launched in France in 2006 and in January in
the United States, allows people to form online stores for free. Users can
choose a name, address and template for the store they want to create and then
begin displaying wares, say an iPod or a T-shirt.

It’s a simple tool, with none of the typical hassle of
designing a site, setting up a payment gateway and keeping stock of merchandise
and shipping.

Once signed up, a new shopkeeper can choose from more than 3
million products offered by 120 merchants, including Barnes & Noble Inc,
Zappos, Gap Inc and Apple Inc. They can then invite friends and relatives to
shop.

"It’s the Tupperware party concept gone online," said
Zlio.com founder and Chief Executive Jeremie Berrebi. "But people are defining
the concept of the shop."

Berrebi, an Internet journalist-turned-entrepreneur, said he
meshed the idea of a Tupperware party with social recommendation features in
which users turn to friends for shopping suggestions to create Zlio.

The notion of helping people create online stores is nearly
as old as the commercial Web itself. Major e-commerce players eBay Inc and
Amazon.com Inc have helped Web entrepreneurs set up hundreds of thousands of
independent online stores.

Sites such as CafePress.com have been around since 1999,
allowing Web users to create stores to sell personalized accessories like coffee
mugs. Zlio offers a far wider range of goods for sale and takes more of a social
networking approach.

Zlio also provides some marketing help. They can put a
widget on their Facebook or other social networking page, or use Google Inc’s
AdSense software to direct traffic to their sites.

So far, people have created more than 250,000 stores, many
organized around themes. One was devoted to all things red, another sold only
hot sauce, a third focuses on The Beatles.

John Holsen, who runs a small publishing business in Kansas
City, Missouri, recently started a shop with his wife, a yoga teacher, to sell
yoga gear.

"It started as an experiment to see if I could build an
e-commerce site in five minutes," Holsen said. "And you can."

He said his site gets up to 5,000 hits a month and makes
about $300-$400 on monthly revenue of $3,000. "You won’t get wealthy off of it,
but if you built enough sites, you can probably make a decent income," he
said.

On average, shopkeepers make about $300 a month, but top
sellers can make as much as $3,000, Zlio spokeswoman Rachel Bremer said.

Merchants share the revenue with Zlio and the seller based
on the number of clicks and sales. Shopkeepers display wares and can earn up to
10 percent commission through eBay’s PayPal online payment service, either on
every sale or on every click generated. They don’t have to worry about shipping
orders because the companies take care of it.

Last year, Zlio generated $12 million in sales for the
companies with which it has tie-ups, Berrebi said. He refused to disclose how
much money the site makes. He also has seen some business interest in the site.
Mangrove Capital, which was an early investor in eBay’s popular Skype Internet
phone service, is backing Zlio, too.

As for the name Zlio itself, Berrebi said it doesn’t mean
anything. "It’s just a four-letter word."

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