ShopZetu raises pre-seed funding to fuel growth of its fashion marketplace beyond Kenya

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Kenyan fashion e-commerce startup ShopZetu is set to add beauty and home décor categories to its portfolio, in response to the growing needs of the young and style-conscious women in Africa. This is as it currently scales regionally over the next few months while working to attract international fashion brands, and more than triple the number of vendors on its platform to 1,000.

The startup plans to trial regional delivery services in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, scaling beyond Kenya, where it launched in 2021, on the backing of a $1 million pre-seed funding it has just closed.

“The goal is for ShopZetu to become the leading lifestyle platform. We are looking to expand our beauty, skincare, hair and home décor offerings, which are all expressions of one’s identity. We want to become a one stop shop,” said Marvin Kiragu, ShopZetu CEO, who co-founded the startup with Wandia Gichuru, also co-founder of the popular Kenyan fashion brand Vivo.

The pre-seed round was led by Chui Ventures, with participation from Launch Africa, Roselake Ventures, and Logos Ventures. Angel investors that took part in the round include Kendall Tang, the CEO of RT Knits; Ben Munoz, the co-founder and CEO of Nadine West; Sumit Bhasin of Estee Lauder Inc; Patricia Ithau, the CEO of WPP Scangroup, and Peter Njonjo, the co-founder and CEO of Twiga Foods.

Kiragu told TechCrunch that ShopZetu was born out of the need for a multi-brand marketplace to bridge a highly-fragmented industry that has “hundreds of thousands of sellers” offline and online including on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. This, he noted, makes the shopping process cumbersome, lacking price visibility and customer trust.

He added that the infinite number of possible stock-keeping units makes it nearly impossible for any one player to house the available assortment under one physical location.

“ShopZetu seeks to solve this problem by aggregating the available supply of fashion and lifestyle products under one roof,” he said.

ShopZetu’s over 300 vendors, mainly made up of large and small local manufacturers, and traders of imported fashion products, have currently listed more than 20,000 products on the ShopZetu marketplace. Vendor onboarding is free, however, they pay a commission for sales generated on the platform, and for other additional services including delivery.

“We also offer vendors a variety of services such as content, digital marketing, warehousing, last mile delivery and returns management. These services are offered at a cost but are largely subsidized to ensure vendor success online,” said Kiragu.

“Our goal is to lower the barrier for anyone to start and scale a fashion brand leveraging ShopZetu’s reach and resources. We have good case studies of brands incubated and launched on ShopZetu and then go on to scale online and establish physical stores,” he said.

The startup requires vendors selling on the marketplace to, amongst other conditions, be well stocked, have high quality products and inclusive-sizing.

The startup says it has in the past two years served over 30,000 customers, and sold more than 100,000 products, while achieving over 400% increase in monthly orders since January 2021.

ShopZetu says it is eyeing the growing fashion industry in sub-Saharan Africa, which is currently dominated by second-hand clothing. However, startups like ShopZetu are banking their growth on affordable new clothing options, and the growing fashion-conscious, tech savvy population in Africa.

“We believe the market for fashion is huge as clothing is a basic human need. While a big percentage of this is currently serviced by secondhand clothing, we are seeing a gradual shift to new clothing as more affordable options are introduced into the market,” said Kiragu.

“We believe that online fashion retail will leapfrog formal retail and become the largest e-commerce category in Africa.”

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