After a few weeks into this program, I am realizing that I never wrote the thing I actually spend the most of my time here doing which is my internship. I was placed at a small start-up called Balibart, whose brand encompasses three branch businesses called Balibart, Balibart My Shop, and Balibart Institute. The mission that drives these three branch businesses it the desire to allow artists to make a living off their creations and make quality art more accessible in everyday life.
Balibart.com is an online boutique that sells selected works from internationally based artists as prints, as well as displayed on t-shirts and other clothing items. Balibart My Shop is an additional online platform that allows any creative individual to create a customized online shop to sell their work. They offer various products for artists to print their designs on from aluminum prints to tote bags. Their mission is simple: you create, we do the rest. This means that the Balibart team takes care of the manufacturing, printing, and packaging of the ordered products while the artist can focus on developing their art. Creating an online boutique is entirely free for the artist on Balibart My Shop and the artist has the choice to set their own profit margin and retail price based on some set base prices by the Balibart team that accounts for the cost of production and other expenses. Balibart Institute is a much more separated, interior design consulting service for offices, hotels, and event spaces in the area.
With a young team of 10 and only five who are in the Paris office on a more consistent basis, the work setting is very casual and collaborative. My work is incredibly varied and open to change while I work primarily with Balibart.com and Balibart My Shop. Nonetheless, almost the entirety of my contributions are facilitated by online platforms with little client interaction. (This is quite a rude awakening for the extroverted side of my introverted-extrovert self).
As Balibart seeks to be an e-commerce solution for creative individuals, it makes sense that the majority of their problems relate to web development and website performance as they continue to add new features for their clients. However, this also poses a large internal threat with such a small team when they are competing with very similar, larger, and better-performing services like Etsy and Big Cartel. The many glitches that come with attempts to expand the sites features frustrates many of the artists that use Balibart’s services and has even deterred customers from purchasing products due to the difficulties of using the site.
Many of the artists that use Balibart My Shop to sell their work also use a variety of other online boutique services to sell their art – Balibart just happens to be the best e-commerce solution for interested customers in France. Most artists will use a different online boutique creation service for each different country in which they want to sell their work. This means any interested German will likely buy Artist X’s work from Junique.com (the Berlin-based comparative to Balibart) and not seek outside of German online services to avoid astronomical shipping costs. Though Balibart strives to be the best e-commerce solution for creatives everywhere, their best bet might be to focus solely on France as they sort out the various website problems.
It is interesting to observe the operations of a predominantly online business and I look forward to learning much more over my second and final month in Paris.