Here at Business Score we wanted to do something to mark Black History Month. True to our eCommerce roots, we decided to curate wisdom from five Black eCommerce founders. We hope you enjoy and take away as much inspiration as we did.
Let’s get started.
Before you start your company, it’s important to have a clear “why.” Things will inevitably get tough and if you have a clear vision and purpose for what you’re building, this will give you the fuel to keep going and overcome the challenges.
Having a clear “why” also makes business sense. You want to be solving a problem in the market and be able to succinctly articulate it to yourself, your team, customers and potential investors.
First up, Raphael Babalola and Richie Dawes behind soon-to-launch skincare brand Temple describe their mission:
“We started Temple because we wanted self-care to be redefined and prioritised among men of colour.
We had enough of big brands getting away with putting toxic and harmful ingredients in cosmetic products aimed at black people and we were frustrated with their sub-standard attempts to market products to our community...(if at all).
Temple is changing that!”
Once you’ve launched your company, you may have your sights set on getting your product into retail stores. Retail is a great distribution channel as you can piggyback off the store’s platform and expand your customer base. In the process, you may be able to reduce your own marketing spend and lower your customer acquisition cost.
Eve Yankah, Founder & CEO of BEPPS Snacks (stocked in Tesco, Asda, Whole Foods and Harvey Nichols) offers her advice on how to break in:
“Do your research, LinkedIn helped me find buyers I was looking for, or I contacted the CEOs of the retailers directly who forwarded me onto the right buying team, who were more receptive thereafter.
You have to think outside the box and be more assertive in what you want to achieve.”
It’s one thing to build a brand from scratch. Building a community behind that brand is even harder. Do it successfully and you’ll have a loyal customer base who will champion your product.
Founder of sportswear brand Y-Fit Wear, Mark Agyakwa, reflects on the most important things to bear in mind:
“Number one is to put the community first. Cater to their needs and what brings them the most value. That, alongside a united culture, where there is a common goal and purpose that everyone aligns with”
When running your business, you’ll be juggling managing day-to-day with planning for the future. While it’s important to stay present and focus on delivering value everyday, it’s also vital to plan for the future. Having a pipeline of projects and growth ideas will not only help you make the most of opportunities, but, furthermore, it will keep you excited about your business.
Founder Samuel Wiliams outlines what he’s most excited about for his venture, Las Olas Premium Spiced Rum:
“For next year, we’re looking forward to creating our new bottle designs and coming out with a white rum.”
Running a business means experimenting and taking risks. Naturally, this means you’re going to make some mistakes… and that’s okay. The key thing is to extract the lesson as quickly as possible and move on.
When you’ve been running a successful business for a decade, there will be many lessons.
Rachel and Joceylyn, Co-founders of of Afro hair care products company, Afrocenchix, share the advice they’d give their younger selves if they could go back to the beginning of the journey:
“Build your mailing list! We didn’t bother with email marketing at first, we had a website and lots of word of mouth reach and great organic social media growth so we didn’t think too much about it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken every opportunity to build up a mailing list."
Social media and organic search reach is great, but you’re at the mercy of algorithm changes and your account could be deleted for multiple reasons. With an email list you have a way to get in touch with your customers and community no matter what happens on other people’s platforms.”
There we have it.
As Black History Month draws to a close, we hope you’ve had an opportunity to celebrate it in some way. Thank you to our five founders for sharing their insights, and thank you for reading.