Amira Rasool was like many young entrepreneurs. She needed funding to get her business off the ground. In Rasool’s case it was for a fashion venture. But Rasool’s story has a slight twist. In the process of raising funds, the 26-year-old has become the youngest Black woman to raise over $1 million in pre-seed funding for her brand — The Folklore Group.
With the The Folklore Group, the Gen Y businesswoman merged her passion for African culture and a knack for spotting a profitable idea. And, she put it all into a solid corporate proposal— strong enough to attract investors who were willing to fund her dream.
Rasool raised $1.7 million in April in a pre-seed funding round led by Slauson & Co. and in the process became one of less than 200 Black women entrepreneurs to amass over seven figures in venture funding for any kind of business, reported Inc. Rasool, who launched her company The Folklore in 2017, also became one of the youngest African-American women to achieve such a milestone. “Seed funding is typically lower than series funding, with startups averaging $500,000 in seed funding,” Crunchbase describes.
She didn’t achieve this goal on her own. Rasool says after going at it from a grassroots, bootstrapping strategy for four years and not achieving her goal, she linked with Techstars’ accelerator program. The program taught her skills and gave her the tools to approach investors with a confident pitch.
The New Yorker said, “At first, I was kind of begging investors to be a part of my company. Then I realized, wait — this is an opportunity for them, too.”
It was an opportunity that investors like WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike leaped on, especially after Rasool shared ideas to expand the e-commerce platform, which became popular because it provides consumers an opportunity to buy fashion and lifestyle products from Africa and the diaspora, to include a new B2B wholesale e-commerce platform called The Folklore Connect.
“I came in with data points that showed the potential of this huge market and said, ‘This is something I’m letting you in on,’” she realized.
Rasool’s new Connect platform will give access to global retailers to African and diasporic designer fashion and lifestyle brands.
“Our mission since inception in 2018 is to bring African and diasporic designer brands to the forefront of the global high-end fashion and lifestyle industry,” she told Black Enterprise.
“For brands, we are helping by developing streamlined supply chain systems that expand entrepreneurship, jobs, manufacturing, and the overall African and diasporic economy,” Rasool continued. “For retailers, we are helping them discover and access the brands of the future that their customers will love and buy.”
Still, through her training from Techstars, she has developed a way to translate her vision in a way that made her company’s rewards outweigh any risks.
“The biggest challenge was trying to sell investors on the market size without having hard data,” Rasool confessed. “There are not many studies on the high end African and diasporic fashion and lifestyle industry, much of the information out there now is dated or very broad. Since most of the investors we were speaking to were not familiar with this market, getting certain investors to see the huge multi-billion dollar opportunity was difficult.”
The Folklore Connect launched with 15 retail partners and has plans to include more by the summer.
Each retailer associated with the platform will be offered a tiered membership model. One level is free and requires the brands to allot a commission fee to the Folklore on each purchase. Another membership level offers a flat annual fee where retailers will pay a reduced commission fee but be able to access data collected by Folklore for their brand’s corporate use. Information that will be made available includes customer buying habits based on Rasool’s brainchild’s direct-to-consumer arm.
The Folklore will also assist the brands who join the platform building their businesses.