A Stroke of Genius

Jun 1, 2024 | Featured, People

 

Ask Dr. Wanda Vaughn if she has a technical background or a general IT skillset, and the Fort Smith optometrist and mother of three breaks into a wide grin.

“I’m the most ‘untech’ person you’ll ever meet,” she says with a laugh. “If I have an issue with my phone, I hand it to one of my sons. I hate passwords. I have never had a Facebook page.”

On the surface, Wanda’s deep aversion to digital gadgets makes her an improbable candidate for developing a tech product. However, she’s accomplished exactly that with the help of Lee, her husband, and her three business partners—her sons, Jake, Stone, and Reid. Not to mention, not insignificantly, the interference of COVID-19.

“During COVID, one of the things our family liked to do was watch [business pitch reality show] Shark Tank,” she says. “We have a very competitive family and were sitting around pitching ideas. I had this business idea and knew it was good.”

Wanda’s big idea was rooted in the family’s transition to being empty nesters. As the couple’s youngest son was preparing for college, Wanda forced herself to take stock of the things cluttering her closets and other storage spaces.

“I call myself a hoarder by default,” she says. “What that means is that I organize my stuff from one closet, and it makes me feel better to reorganize it and shift it to another closet. Through that process, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over all these years.

“I also was saving things for my children thinking maybe they’ll use this one day, and they looked at me like, ‘No, Mom, get rid of it.'”

While she resolved to get rid of the excess items once and for all, Wanda was disappointed at the lack of options available to do so. Garage sales weren’t her thing, and she was morally opposed to simply throwing things away. Moreover, existing options for selling items—be it live, online, or a combination of the two—also had their challenges.

“With e-commerce, we greatly compromise our privacy,” she says. “It’s unsafe; I don’t want to meet a stranger in a parking lot, and I don’t want anybody to come to my house. Then, on some sites, you must box it up and ship it, which is time-consuming. I’ve used consignment stores in the past, but often, they ask you to organize your things, only accept seasonal items, or have other requirements.”

Wanda envisioned an app prioritizing privacy and simplicity for selling and buying unwanted items. This vision materialized as shopXchange, ensuring safe and secure transactions. Users are encouraged not to disclose their real identities, and robust security measures safeguard all personal information.

However, the real point of differentiation is how items change hands. Instead of boxing and shipping merchandise or handing it over in person, shopXchange uses a new, unique approach: signing up existing brick-and-mortar business locations as drop-off and pickup locations, which Wanda refers to as “Xchange sites.”

“When you post an item, there’s a dropdown menu with a list of businesses within your community,” Wanda says. “As the poster, you can select the Xchange sites you want to use. Most individuals will use sites near their homes or on their route to work or school. When you get a sale, you receive a notification, by email or text, letting you know the item sold and to drop it off at the Xchange site you’ve selected. When you get there, you will give them a D number, the drop-off number.

“Once you provide the D number at the Xchange site, the person who purchased your item receives a notification that the item was delivered and ready to be picked up. The seller and buyer never meet.”

Wanda said the incentives for companies to agree to be an Xchange site include a portion of the sale and, equally important, increased foot traffic.

“Advertising is an expense for any small business,” she says. “With us, they get highlighted on the platform and their foot traffic increases. Every time a seller or buyer comes in, they can say, ‘Hey, thanks for using us as an Xchange site;’ and provide them incentives if they choose to. For example, a coupon for thirty percent off the next time you come in.”

The entrepreneurship and small business world was familiar to Wanda, who has owned and operated the Arkansas Vision Development Center in Fort Smith for the past nineteen years. However, bringing shopXchange to reality required a different, specialized skill set.

“We researched app development companies and selected Square 6 in Siloam Springs,” Wanda says. “We have worked with them since June 2022 to develop the app and have hired them to manage it.

“I will always remember calling Square 6 and telling them I was interested in developing an app. We met with a panel of owners, and when we told them what we wanted, I think their mouths hit the floor. They assumed because of my background that I was going to ask for an app related to the eyes, vision, or medical field.”

The app, which went live earlier this year, is available through the App Store (Apple) and Google Play. Wanda says she has big plans for the family business, launching into various markets in phases.

“I want readers to understand that it’s not just about me building a second business. I truly want to service our community,” she says. “When I look at our economy and where we’re at in our state and country today, it’s important to recycle and take back every dollar you can. shopXchange is about giving hardworking families a better way to earn some passive income.

“That’s big for us; we want to provide a service to families and, in some cases, help them make ends meet. So many parents today are working multiple jobs, and if they can recoup $50, $25, or even $100 or $200, that could put food on the table. Those are the things that matter.”

To learn more about shopXchange as a seller, buyer, or potential Xchange site, visit the company website at shopXchange.com. Download the app via the App Store (Apple) and Google Play. 

Fort Smith Xchange Sites
Arkansas Vision Development Center
Bookish
DejaVu & New
Fifth J
Grand Antiques & Collectibles
Grand Central Storage
Grunge House
Omni Tea
Rags (Van Buren)
River Valley Fitness and Training Center
The Fence Man
Through the Years Antique Mall
True Grit Running Company

Words Dwain Hebda
Images courtesy Wanda Vaughn

Do South Magazine

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