The Sammamish-based web company Meylah.com was originally conceived by a Sammamish father as a platform to enhance his young son’s desire to help others through his art. It's now the virtual home to 1,500 creative businesses selling everything from paintings, jewelry, and wearable art to digital products such as clip art and e-books.
Ram Dutt, who launched Meylah with his partner Jason Dirks last December, says he had been looking for a site that could be a clearinghouse for him to help his son, Chirag, sell his acrylic paintings while also taking advantage of social media platforms. Chirag, who just turned 11 recently, has been selling his artwork for the last five years, in the process earning more than $15,000 to donate to charities such as Seattle Children’s Hospital (see Chirag’s Meylah site here). Several of his works are displayed in the new Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah, and many have been commissioned or purchased by private buyers.
In kicking around ideas about expanding the market for his son's charitable works with his wife, Chaitra Vedullapalli, and her then co-worker, Dirks, Dutt says he discovered that Dirks was an avid photographer and also looking for such a platform to market his photography.
“We tried a couple (of sites) that were not the right mechanism, and during this process we got feedback from many other creative people,” Dutt says. “The question was, ‘How do you create an effective online presence that brings value to you?’—the value doesn’t have to be dollars and cents.”
When they couldn’t find a solution that fit their needs, the duo decided to create one, and Meylah was born. The word Meylah is Hindi for ‘coming together,’ and that’s what the company has tried to do for its members in several ways.
The resulting site is a proprietary blogging platform that includes integration with social media and RSS feeds, as well as a built-in e-commerce platform, and is designed to be easy to use and have a unified look, while allowing members to customize their pages for an individual look.
“Blogging brings engagement, and the best SEO (search engine optimization),” Dutt says. “They take advantage of a blogging system without having to be a blogger. Every time they create and share products, it’s a blog post.”
This is also a major way that Meylah has helped spread the word about the site organically. Dutt and his colleagues have created a whole series of user tutorials and an online learning center that not only educates the creative community that comprises its membership, but also generates the same type of SEO that increases visits to the site, and thus to member pages. Meylah also has published six free e-books on Internet marketing, available to anyone, not just members, which Dutt says includes principles that apply to any small business, not just artistic businesses.
“Our thing is let’s share the knowledge we have,” Dutt says. “Technology and marketing are the biggest challenges in the creative community.”
The types of businesses that use Meylah range from traditional artists and digital artists to e-book publishers and musicians. The tutorial platform, a template that allows people to create how-to slide shows for just about anything you could imagine, is already being used for online math tutorials for Fall City Elementary, where Chirag attends school, and Dutt says he sees a lot of potential for educational uses, as well as another avenue for artists to engage with their customer base. The tutorials can be distributed at no charge, or can have fees attached like any other product.
The site’s members pay anywhere from a 5 percent transaction fee per item sold for a limited membership, which includes up to 25 products on the member site, up to $19 a month, which includes up to 500 items for sale and no transaction fees.
Since its launch last December, the site has grown to more than 1,500 members in creative endeavors who use Meylah to showcase a variety of physical and virtual goods for sale and to share their knowledge and experience.
Dutt says he and Dirks have ideas to scale up the value of the site for members as it continues to grow, such as with mobile apps, and it plans to roll out a new feature early next year, though Dutt declines to say what that feature is just yet.
“I’m very excited about the progress we have made,” Dutt says. He says his son is very proud of it, too.