Shopify

2023
Lowering the barriers to entrepreneurship worldwide.

Empowering entrepreneurs at any stage to reach their fullest potential.

Process

Role: UX/Product Designer
Skills: Brand strategy, market research, wire-framing, UI design, presentation design
Context: Hackathon with Shopify and BrainStation
Timeframe:
24h
Team: 3 Web Developers, 1 UX/Product Designer, 2 Data Scientists

What does it mean to be "mentored" in entrepreneurship?

The brief was to design a solution to lower the barriers to entrepreneurship utilizing Shopify's existing ecosystem.

At a high level, our team was curious about how new or aspiring entrepreneurs could leverage the wisdom and expertise of other experienced entrepreneurs to enable their businesses to succeed. Which led us to the question:

Could a practical solution be designed to help people feel more supported, guided, and empowered—especially during key moments of their entrepreneurial journey?

Introducing: Shopify Mentor Match.

The Entrepreneurship Company

After listening to a few podcasts featuring founders [Tobias Lutke] and [Harley Finkelstein], Shopify's founding story and brand identity as "The Entrepreneurship Company" became clear.

Their goal was to encourage people from anywhere in the world to start a business and embrace entrepreneurship as a means to financial and creative freedom. They wanted people to feel the freedom they felt when they made their first sale.

As a team, it was our goal to hone into this aspect of their company and create a product that could empower people from any region to embrace entrepreneurship as a way of life.

(L) Co-Founder Harley Finkelstein speaking on his upbringing in Montréal and early interest in eCommerce. (R) Co-Founder Tobias Lutke sharing his experience of embracing entrepreneurship as a means to personal empowerment. (Bottom) Shopify's homepage showcasing key success metrics and brand messaging.

Economic and creative empowerment

After conducting data analysis on the current landscape regarding Shopify's existing Merchants, we soon realized that the food and beverage category, notably coffee, was at the very bottom of the list. Why?

Noticing that Latin America was a key supplier of coffee beans worldwide, and that logistics can often be large pain points for folks who want to sell their products to those in Canada, the USA, and other countries, started there and began to develop our proto-target persona.

We learned that:
  • The importance of mentorship, support, and accountability during an entrepreneurial journey can determine the success of a business
  • For businesses to expand globally they need to understand legal implications
  • Entrepreneurs need to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs in order to learn from them
  • To truly lower barriers, entrepreneurship needs to be more accessible regardless of location
  • The food industry is at the bottom of the merchant list due to legal constraints and language barriers

Our target user Juan-Carlos. His biggest challenge is shipping his coffee beans abroad and understanding foreign markets.

How can existing Shopify Merchants like Carlos understand which 3rd-party app is right for them?

There are too many apps to choose from. Merchants need tailored advice and guidance on what could work best for their business.

The Overseas Coffee Merchant

The biggest pain point for some Shopify Merchants is the legal barriers of getting their product into foreign markets. Which led us to the creation of our proto-persona, Juan Carlos—a Colombian coffee merchant, looking to expand his business globally.

Leveraging Shopify's existing app ecosystem, we built a mentor-matching servce based on key topics and categories that Shopify Merchants could be struggling with.

In Carlos' case, it would be shipping and logistics, language barriers, and enabling his business to succeed online (through the Shopify platform). We iterated on solutions such as a store template recommender, a data analysis / marketing coach, and a business coach as possible solutions.

A focus on human guidance and experience over chatbots.

Merchant’s need expertise from someone who’s been through similar challenges.

Accountability, support, and empowerment

Who could understand Juan Carlos as much as another Merchant from the same country, same industry, and who went through similar struggles? While these factors may not be the exact qualifications for the right mentor, they could be a start.

Shopify's Mentor Match service aims to connect Shopify Merchants with experienced and successful mentors in relevant topics/categories to help support them on their eCommerce journeys.

By creating a service that builds mutually beneficial relationships and success, Shopify could equally build trust with its Merchant user base for the long-term.

Mentor Match onboarding and chat feature. Mentors could recommend 3rd party apps, people to connect with, and additional tailored advice.

These mentors could have existing storefronts that were successful, and potential merchants could search for them based on this criteria. In the end, they would get the 1:1 support needed to succeed in setting up their online store and bring more success to their eCommerce business.

By connecting with a mentor who’s been through similar experiences, Shopify can lower the barriers to entrepreneurship worldwide by making insider knowledge more accessible and tailored to those who need it.

Outcome

Learnings

We believed that by connecting with a mentor who’s been through similar experiences, Shopify could lower the barriers to entrepreneurship by making this knowledge more accessible and tailored to all.

This engagement taught me a lot about cross-disciplinary collaboration towards achieving a shared goal. Developing a solution takes longer than simply designing it in Figma—it also takes patience and clear communication. Pitching the idea to folks at Shopify was also a great experience in developing effective presentation/buy-in skills.

Overall, it was great to see my team members bring their strengths to the table. I'd love to further explore testing this idea on more people and possibly developing it for further market validation.