Call it Craigslist with a conscience. Zuujit, the new online marketplace launched by Santa Barbara resident Tyler Gildred, not only allows people to buy and sell items online, but it also features the option of making a charitable difference. Gildred has devoted himself to ending modern-day slavery by partnering with the Not For Sale (NFS) campaign, a nonprofit organization founded to abolish global slavery, which since 2007 has established international projects in Thailand, Uganda, Cambodia, Romania, and Peru.
David Batstone, president and cofounder of NFS, was inspired to create the organization after he read a news article in a local paper. The international injustice he discovered was the catalyst that set off a chain of events that eventually led him to found NFS.
“One of my favorite Indian restaurants in the Bay Area had been trafficking women from India to wash dishes, cook meals, and do other tasks,” recounts Batstone on the NFS Web site. “The story came out when a young woman, Chianti Pratipatta, died of a gas leak in an unventilated apartment owned by the proprietor of the restaurant, who forced Chianti and others into slavery under threat of reporting their illegal presence to the authorities.”
Both Batstone and Gildred are graduates of Westmont College, and they met by chance when Batstone gave a presentation about global slavery. For Gildred, what set NFS apart from other charities and prompted him to partner the organization with Zuujit, was its modern approach to aid.
“The way they’re approaching their charity is really amazing,” explained Gildred. “They have iPhone apps and use a lot of current technology. What I like about them is that it’s something we can really make a change in by bringing it up and making people aware. There are a lot of charities that receive money, but [that don’t] make as much of a difference. With NFS, they’re educating and really spreading the word, and contributions really make a big dent.”
By going into business with NFS, Zuujit allows people to list and sell items and donate money directly to the charity or, after the first sale and initial donation, they can select and donate to other organizations or businesses. The only thing the charity pays for is the credit card processing.
While NFS is the featured organization for the Web site, any charity can use Zuujit as a tool to raise money. As the site moves forward, it is working with an increasing number of charities and giving people the option of choosing where their money goes. Charities are selected based on an application process that allows Zuujit to regulate who it works with.
Aside from its philanthropic competitive advantages, Zuujit is distinct from sites like eBay and Craigslist because of its more streamlined technology, making the entire selling and buying process easier for customers. As a former eBay power seller, Gildred saw firsthand what worked for the company and what didn’t, and he was able to refine his business to improve upon the model. The huge staff at eBay of over 14,000 employees makes it hard for them to innovate easily, he said, which is also the problem with Craigslist.
“It should only take a couple seconds to make a listing, and it should be seamless and enjoyable,” said Gildred. “That’s what we do. We call our Web site a social market. It’s like Facebook, eBay, and Craigslist had a baby: we use Facebook and Twitter to promote listings and post to their marketplaces and our marketplace at the same time. As people play with it, they’ll see that besides just making selling simple, we’ve made shipping simple too. You just print out the label yourself and stick it on the box to ship it, then the buyer pays for the item after they receive it.”
Another new advance that distinguishes Zuujit from its competitor Web sites is its relationship to new social networking technology. Its iPhone application community allows Zuujit’s marketplace nationwide access. Unlike eBay, the system is not auction-based, so buyers are able to get what they want instantly rather than having to enter into bidding wars with other online users.
For sellers who are unsure whether they want to let go of a product, the site has its newest feature: a sharing component, similar to that of Facebook, that allows the seller to post pictures of the item and generate interest within the Zuujit buyer community. Users can comment on photos and offer to buy items they want. Gildred says this advancement is valuable because the online community is changing, and technology is constantly in flux.
“Instead of show and tell when we were little, it’s now more like show and sell! One person’s trash is another person’s gold,” said Gildred.