When Bo Fishback dropped by the Betabeat offices last December, the 9 million foot tall Zaarly cofounder told us how he had just added 1,250 New York-based small businesses to his burgeoning peer-to-peer local marketplace. That way, service providers like graphic designers and fitness instructors could use Zaarly almost as a lead generation engine for new opportunities nearby.
But from a consumer’s perspective, it wasn’t necessarily obvious whether a trained chef, say, would be responding to your request for a home cooked dinner, or just a neighbor with a beat up copy of the Momofuku cook book.
Today, however, Zaarly is upping the ante on empowering the top tier of talented service providers–no surprise considering Mr. Fishback’s roots at the Kauffman Foundation for entrepreneurship. With the launch of Zaarly Storefronts, the company, which operates both through a mobile app and online, allows sellers to proactively showcase the services they provide, ideally giving them a venue to grow their business.
For now, the feature is only available in San Francisco starting with 120 featured sellers arranged into categories like Wellness & Fitness and Home Services & Repairs. But TechCrunch reports that Zaarly is already onboarding sellers in New York and Los Angeles.
Individuals have to apply to be featured in Zaarly’s seller network, the company explained in a press release. Only after “carefully considering each application,” will Zaarly select the “best-of-the-best” on its site. After taking a look at the initial crop of storefronts, it’s easy to see why. The pages are sleek and customized, not just plug-and-play. But the company is currently taking applications from those who want to join the network.
As Mr. Fishback said in the press release, “Zaarly makes it easy for people to ‘favorite’ their preferred sellers — or friends’ preferred sellers — so they know where to turn for a great mechanic, chef, yoga instructor, handyman, dog walker, gardener or wedding planner.”
When Zaarly started in New York, the occasional glimpse at the app offered mostly listings and requests for products, like a camera or MacBook. It’s interesting to watch the company try to build a community with the same intimate feel as TaskRabbit, its primary competitor.
The emphasis on homespun skills is particularly noteworthy considering TaskRabbit’s acqui-hire of Skillslate in January. Before it was bought out, Skillslate, a small New York City company, focused on a similar proposition. You know, for when you needed a last minute firebreather for your pivot party, but weren’t sure who to ask.