The opportunity to transform the direct sales category by combining existing trust-based relationships with the power of digital sharing and purchasing behaviors was the starting point for Zach Oschin, Thomas Harsch and the team at Polymath Ventures to develop the idea behind Elenas: the first social commerce start-up in Latin America.
Elenas is disrupting the $26 billion USD direct sales market by connecting leading lifestyle brands with a massive network of ambassadors who can promote and sell those brands’ products over WhatsApp and social media. After one year the company has already enabled over 25.000 women across Colombia to build their own online store and earn an extra income for themselves and their families.
The impact of this venture is directly related to the social and economic conditions of the countries in which it operates, especially regarding issues of gender equality. According to the Human Development Report for Latin America, “women dedicate at least 3 more hours to domestic tasks than men and between 1 to 4 hours less than men to business activities”, which reflects the complexities and potential obstacles for women to secure job and extra income opportunities which fulfill their families’ economic needs. These conditions provide a tremendous opportunity to develop and innovate on traditional business models in order to transform the work structures which constrain women today.
Elenas represents a new opportunity for a massive population of women who need to generate an extra income or want more flexibility in their schedules but are restricted by this traditional job market and antiquated direct sales opportunities. The current model of selling products via catalog to friends and family forces them to take on economic risk as they buy products upfront and have to handle the tedious operations of delivering products and using a paper catalog to sell.
“When the number of employed women increases, then economies grow. According to multiple studies executed the rise of women in the workforce or a reduction on the gender disparity, produces a faster economic growth”. – OCDE
The impact behind Elenas’ operation enables a positive cycle of empowerment for ambassadors and brands that are part of the network. This new channel has enabled over 30 Colombian lifestyle brands to achieve 25% WoW sales growth during their first month on the platform; one of these brands is Dermanat, a Colombian cosmetics company from Colombia that has developed natural products for over 30 years. Elenas has also opened a distribution channel for international companies that are looking to expand their operations to Latin America such as W7 Cosmetics, an innovative and trendy cosmetics company from London that has developed an extensive range of high-quality cosmetics at an affordable price.
For the ambassador network, they are currently earning 3-8x what they earn through traditional direct sales, while the top sellers are earning more than the Colombian minimum wage. For these women, the extra income represents a 20-50% additional income to their full-time salaries.
Elenas’ innovative business model has been featured by global media outlets such as TechCrunch, La FM, and Caracol and has been recognized by renowned organizations such as Georgetown University and CitiVentures. The Elenas team has grown to over 20 people and continues to evolve rapidly as the company’s message spreads around the country.
Currently, the Elenas team is working to build out an even more extensive set of digital tools for its’ network of ambassadors so that they can earn more in less time. By using data collection and machine learning technologies the Elenas platform will provide even better recommendations to ambassadors and clients to better the browsing and purchasing experience.
By the end of 2019, Elenas plans on extensively growing its base of ambassadors in Colombia and in the coming years it plans to expand the business to other markets in Latin America. If you are interested in learning more about how Elenas is disrupting this traditional category or want to join the growing team you can contact them by emailing [email protected].