There’s no “right” way to start a company or run a business. In fact, many of the most successful ecommerce brands were founded by people who broke rules and questioned the norm. Some disruptors think outside the box in terms of company values, while others are on a mission to fight climate change. Then there are ecommerce leaders known for challenging existing notions of how products should be sold online.

So, what are the top ecommerce brands doing digital right? And what did the founders of these companies do differently to capture an audience and drive growth? Take notes from these five innovators who shook up the online merchandising space.

Rob Kalin, Founder of Etsy

Rob Kalin founded Etsy when he and his friends needed a way to sell their handmade products. The ecommerce website launched in 2005 as a hub for hobbyists and crafters to sell their goods online. Etsy is now a household name and a standby for handcrafted gifts, vintage items, and other expertly crafted goods you really can’t find anywhere else.

From the get-go, Kalin’s vision was all about empowering small businesses, and Etsy has stayed true to its roots. The online marketplace now has upwards of 2.5 million sellers who can stay in business selling small-batch products and specialty items, often right out of their homes.

Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS after visiting Argentina, where he saw how many children struggled without shoes. Since its 2006 launch, the brand has made a name for itself not just for popular footwear but for its charitable efforts.

Mycoskie is behind the One for One campaign, which donated a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair purchased. The program ran through 2019, with over 95 pairs donated since the company launched.

Over the years, Mycoskie expanded the brand’s philanthropic efforts. He started the WaterForward project and partnered with charities like FEED to bring clean water and meals to children in underdeveloped countries.

Paula Begoun, Founder of Paula’s Choice

Paula’s Choice is not only one of the best ecommerce brands but also one of the first. Founder Paula Begoun launched the company in 1994 and has been selling her cult-favorite skincare products online for just as long. Dismissing offers to sell at department stores and pharmacies, she embraced the DTC (direct-to-consumer) model right from the start.

Begoun isn’t just a pioneer of online retailing. She had a grasp of content marketing well before SEO (search engine optimization) was a thing. Paula’s Choice connected with consumers and gained their trust through Beautypedia, the brand’s impressively reliable skincare encyclopedia and blog.

The online resource is chock full of science-backed research and valuable information about ingredients, plus tens of thousands of unbiased user reviews of other brands. People turn to Beautypedia for all things skincare, which gives Paula’s Choice an organic SEO advantage.

Emanuel Bronner, Founder of Dr. Bronner’s

Third-generation soapmaker Emanuel Bronner founded Dr. Bronner’s in 1948. He famously printed messages of peace, unity, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability on the labels of his eco-friendly soap.

Dr. Bronners Soap Ecommerce SustainabilityThough Bronner passed away in 1997, his legacy lives on. Dr. Bronner’s is still family-owned and now one of the top sustainable ecommerce brands. It’s the largest company in the personal care market with a USDA Organic certification and boasts packaging made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

Tobias Lütke, Founder and CEO of Shopify

Shopify and ecommerce are almost synonymous. Dissatisfied with other web development platforms and needing a place to sell snowboarding equipment, Tobi Lütke launched Shopify in 2006.

The ecommerce platform provides a place for merchandisers of all sizes to sell products online. Shopify has tons of tools, features, and customization options and continues to evolve with more capabilities. Lütke made the biggest impact with the 2013 launch of Shopify Payments. The feature allows merchants to bypass third-party gateways and accept credit and debit card payments directly, completely changing the point-of-sale (POS) game for online retailing.

Mad Fish Digital works with ecommerce brands of all sizes and from every industry. Our digital marketing firm can assist with content marketing, SEO, paid media, digital advertising, design, and social media marketing. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we work.