Former Williams prof. taps into virtual international handcraft market

When eZiba.com opens its virtual doors next fall, shoppers will be able to stroll the bazaars of the world from their own homes. eZiba, named after the Persian word for “beautiful,” will market an array of imported handcrafted goods from around the globe. Shoppers can pursue the online catalogue and find treasures like Rainforest Baskets from Panama and Colombia, Hornbill Men from Burkina Faso, Fulani necklaces from what is now the Czech Republic and bottle cap art from Guatemala.

The online images have a picture of the object and a brief description of where it is from and what its creators used it for. eZiba plans to accompany the catalogue with traditional music from the parts of the world where the goods originate.

The idea for the company originated during a conversation between Amber Chand, director of eZiba’s product marketing and director of the museum shop at the Williams College Museum of Art, and her brother-in-law, Dick Sabot. Sabot, a former professor of economics at Williams, is a founder of Tripod.com.

According to Sabot, “the market for imported handcrafted goods is enormous, but it is geographically fragmented. The internet is the obvious answer, but individual suppliers are not large enough to build, market and stock a state-of-the-art site. eZiba provides hundreds of suppliers with the internet solution they have been seeking.”

The company’s offices are currently located on the second floor of Building 1 in MassMoCA. eZiba currently employs about 20 people, but Sabot predicts the number of employees will double in a few months. Chief Financial Officer and founder Deborah Jackson envisions the company ultimately employing over 100 people. The company plans to store its goods in warehouses around the country; the first is in Florida. Shipments to customers are expected to take between seven and ten days.

Sabot comments on the difference between first-generation e-commerce companies like Tripod and second-generation e-commerce companies like eZiba. Unlike the older companies that rely on databases in the public domain, eZiba has its own proprietary database of products. eZiba is “a demonstration of the power of imagination and great expectations,” Sabot said.

Chand emphasizes the uniqueness and beauty of the objects in the catalogue. “[eZiba] allows us to gather a wide variety of goods together in one place along with all the information the shopper needs to select and feel confident about a purchase,” she said.

Sabot likens eZiba to an electronic Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, where items are selected by a team with years of experience finding artisan made goods around the world. Most products offered by eZiba will be priced between $50 and $100, or in the hundreds of dollars. In addition, a portion of founders’ stock will contribute grants to villages where the crafts are made through the eZiba Foundation. If the company goes public or if it is sold, the foundation would be flooded with millions of dollars that could generate significant grants.