Looking for a way to help their parents figure out how to stay afloat during the pandemic, two Skagwegians born and raised have developed an e-commerce website for Alaska businesses. And although they started out small, the momentum is building.
The people of Skagway may be familiar with Vojij.com co-founder and CEO Oliva Klupar of Olivia’s Bistro, which bears her name on Broadway Street.
She started Voyij.com, spelled voyij.com, in 2014 to sell tours to Skagway. But five years later, it underwent a transformation to become an e-commerce website. Kind of like an Amazon.com for Alaskan companies that continues to sell tours and help people choose travel destinations, while now selling products to potential travelers who are stuck at home.
According to Klupar, the website has spread from Southeast Alaska to the rest of the state.
“We are now working with companies in Anchorage and we have a company at our site at the North Pole, all the way to Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, âsaid Klupar.
She and her brother Greg noticed that during the shutdown of the global pandemic, businesses in Southeast Alaska were closed due to a complete lack of tourism, and they looked for a way to help these stores move. products that collect dust on their shelves.
“So we started this with my parents. And then we said, wow if my parents have this challenge I’m sure other companies have this challenge, âKlupar said.
Greg Klupar went to computer school and built the platform online. Each company has their own secure connection and they can upload photos of their products, from there the Klupars help market those products. Once the sale has been made, the business is notified and voyij.com processes the payment. It is free to join Voyij, the website makes its income by taking a percentage of each sale, rather than charging a hosting fee.
“IIt’s been so terrible two years. And I think there is a huge opportunity to generate real income for local communities. And it will be online this year, just because there isn’t a lot of travel, âKlupar said.
This year, the Skagway-based company signed partnership agreements with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines. They have become the official Iditarod online retail site and continue a partnership with Buy Alaska, operated by the Small Business Development Center of Alaska.
With Royal Caribbean’s recent marketing blasts, sales have increased dramatically.
“You just set it up and you start selling, I mean, that email we sent on Monday, six new companies had their first sale on Voyij, just from one email, and I want there to be a lot of firsts this year, âKlupar said.
The online platform is designed to allow small businesses to control as much or as little of their site as they want.
“We do a full training, it takes about 30 minutes to an hour to get them up and selling right away from our site. From there, they can add their own products if they want. Or if they need more help, we’re more than happy to step in, âKlupar said.
At the moment, the company has about 150 Alaskan businesses on their list, and they plan to stay focused on Alaskan businesses. Cruise ships are expected to return to Alaskan waters in 2022. The Klupar siblings hope to see businesses in Alaska stay afloat for now and thrive once tourism returns.