What inspired you to start your business?
My bachelor experience inspired me to start The Folklore. While attending Rutgers, I majored in African-American and African Studies. Before I started the program, I had never been exposed to much of Black’s literature, art, and innovation. Many of the people I learned the most during college – James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston – all of them produced work that had an impact and pushed Black’s social, economic and political agenda forward. I then decided that I would dedicate all my careers to serving the same goal.
Having had experience in the fashion media space and in e-commerce, I knew I could build a platform that would give African designers the ability to further monetize their brands by attracting the attention of a global audience. Fashion is a major income driver in countries around the world – it employs so many people. I want to start a business that can leave such an impact on the black and brown community.
How does the influence of social easing and ordering at home affect your business? How have your priorities changed?
The command to keep my distance and stay at home greatly affected my business. I am in the middle of increasing our pre-seed round right when the order is placed. Many of the investors I spoke to told them that they had to focus their attention on their current portfolio companies before they could return to conversations with me. It was difficult because I was sure that I would raise money in the spring.
Instead of being discouraged, I decided to change my efforts to restructure our finances and business models to fit our current financial position and our deep sales decline. I moved our product out of our room in NYC and took it home to New Jersey so I could send orders without leaving my home. I cut more than a dozen $ 10 and $ 15 monthly subscriptions and lowered my costs to a minimum.
After figuring out our new financial plan, we are connected to more than 30 designer brands where we work. We check to see how their performance, how COVID-19 affects their business, and how we can help. We went from being an e-commerce channel to being a source of immediate support. We are holding a virtual fashion conference with a number of our fashion designers and editors from Condé Nast to raise funds for African-based brands affected by COVID-19.
We are now making plans to offer more business services that will allow brands to create their own online direct-to-consumer business instead of relying only on multi-brand retailers. We also partner with others in the industry to build a nonprofit organization that can continue to help these brands long after orders are revoked.