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WePay Makes It Easy For “Casual Vendors” To Open Online Stores

“She doesn’t need customization,” WePay cofounder Rich Aberman says of a Nebraska theater major. “She just wants to get up and running quickly.”

bake sale

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Let’s say you’re a 20-year-old college student, and you want a simple way to sell the crafts you make as a hobby to help fund a summer trip. Where do you go?

Flea market? Too time-intensive. EBay or Etsy? Too complicated. Craigslist? Too hit or miss. Thanks to online payments startup WePay, however, there’s a new solution for what we’ll call “casual vendors”–people who aren’t full-time merchants but who need simple store-like functionality so they can do the digital equivalent of setting up a lemonade stand or holding a bake sale.

WePay Stores‘ tools aren’t particularly elegant, and they have none of the bells and whistles of traditional online store-building services, like those available from Yahoo! or eBay. But that’s okay, cofounder and COO Rich Aberman tells Fast Company. There’s an emerging class of users, he says, for whom all of that is too complicated: class reunions that just want to sell T-shirts, for example, bands that want to sell merchandise, or small organizations selling items to raise money.

“We’re giving them a Fisher-Price toy to get their stores up and running in 30 seconds,” Aberman says.

WePay is the Y Combinator company that started three years ago to give people a simple way to bill their friends for certain expenses (in the case of the founders, to collect payments from friends who went on a group vacation). The company has since grown beyond that modest goal, tacking on new functionality that lets small organizations and groups sell tickets, for example, or collect donations.

The addition of the store capabilities is just an extension of WePay’s vision. “Our general strategy is to marry the payment piece with the functionality,” Aberman says, so that users can do more than just collect payments; they can also execute specific types of transactions.

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The users of WePay’s merchant tools can either host their store on WePay’s site or embed their stores on their own websites using just a single line of code. It’s important, Aberman says, that users don’t have to do anything that looks like programming to get their store working.

As for revenue, WePay doesn’t charge a subscription fee but instead simply takes a flat 3.5% off every transaction.

Aberman says WePay doesn’t have any data on how large the market is for this down-market use case. It was simply a need they saw described in their user forums, and so they decided to give it a shot.

If the market turns out to be significant, WePay could end up stealing market share away from payment systems like PayPal and store solutions like Yahoo Merchant Solutions as well as serving a slew of people who simply haven’t migrated online yet because current services seemed too daunting.

Rebecca Wilson, the college student in the example above, used WePay to set up a temporary store to sell her crafts. A theater major in Nebraska, Wilson, who already works full-time, needed help funding a trip to Chicago this summer to see if that’s where she’d want to move after graduation.

“She doesn’t need customization,” Aberman says. “She just wants to get up and running quickly.”

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He might be right.

Wilson tells Fast Company that in the month since she opened her store, she’s made enough money to cover the costs of lodging. She’s hoping to make enough to cover airfare as well.

“Just having this extra little bit helps so much,” Wilson says. “I really don’t think I could have done it if it wasn’t for this little store.”

[Image: Flickr user enviziondotnet]

E.B. Boyd is FastCompany’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.

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E.B. Boyd (@ebboyd) has holed up in conference rooms with pioneers in Silicon Valley and hunkered down in bunkers with soldiers in Afghanistan

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