Browse Tag


2 mins read

The Folklore Secures $3.4 Million to Scale B2B Platform for Diverse Brands

Fashion tech startup The Folklore, founded by Amira Rasool, has secured $3.4 million in seed funding. The fresh capital brings their total funding to $6.2 million.

The new funding round was led by venture capital firm Benchstrength and included participation from Techstars, Black Tech Nation Ventures, and Slauson and Co.

The funds will be used to further develop their B2B platform and empower more diverse and marginalized brands in the fashion industry.

Their B2B offerings include The Folklore Connect, an online wholesale management platform that equips brands with user-friendly sales technology and increased discoverability through a network of global retailers.

One new service is The Folklore Capital, offered through partners, which allows brands to receive loans of up to $1 million as working capital. Rasool said a pilot program showed that brands typically seek loans between $10,000 and $30,000.

“Access to capital is probably one of the biggest things that prevents small businesses from scaling,” founder Amira Rasool explained to TechCrunch. “For diverse brands in particular, there are a lot of economic hurdles that these groups face, which makes it even harder for them to access capital. Since a large makeup of our community is diverse, we wanted to make sure that they had more resources that they can use to access capital.”

The Folklore also plans to offer additional resources to brands, such as The Folklore Source, a freelancer and manufacturing marketplace, and The Folklore Hub, which will provide educational content and downloadable templates.

With this additional funding and focus on user needs, The Folklore is well-positioned to grow its reach and empower even more creators and brands in the fashion industry.

by Tony O. Lawson

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8 mins read

7 Practical Tips for Building a Profitable Mission-Driven Business as a Black Founder

Mark Dusseau’s journey through the foster care system has instilled in him a deep commitment to social impact.

His company, Dusseau and Company, is dedicated to leveraging software technology development to create positive social change. With a background in creating predictive models for leading companies and governmental bodies, Mark’s expertise spans various domains.

In this article, Mark addresses a few tips for building a profitable business model for a mission-driven startup.

1. Profit = Mission

The first point is more of a mental shift. When creating businesses that impact the world positively and that are for-profit, we must understand that without a healthy, profitable business, the mission is unlikely to succeed–no matter how good our intentions are. After all, the lifeline of any business is cash flow.

While “why” you start your business shouldn’t be focused on just making money, we must maintain a profitable business model that aligns with our vision and mission.

2. Tap into the community

A startup’s biggest challenge is creating hype around a new business idea, service, or product. Without a working product, sometimes it’s harder to get your potential customers excited about what you are building. In the case of a business that has a clear purpose, marketing your concept is easier. That’s because you can build a community early on around your mission. 

Here’s an example: let’s say you are building a sneaker brand that donates a pair of sneakers to disadvantaged kids every time it sells a sneaker; you can build a community to shed light on some of the basic needs some children need in certain circumstances. As you develop your products, you tell a story to draw others in and create buzz around your product.

3. Having a great mission doesn’t negate the need for market research.

Remember how I talked about having a great mission that will help sell your products? Yes, that is true. But there’s a caveat: only if you are truly solving a problem worth solving and there’s a big enough market of people willing to pay for the solution to the problem.

Having a great mission doesn’t necessarily mean people will want the product or service you offer. While your target audience might love your mission, most people buy things they see as needed.

As a result, you want to ensure that you perform some form of market research, either formally or informally, with your target audience to see if you are building a product to solve a problem worth solving.

4. Market the mission

There’s no point in having a great mission if no one knows about it. Use the mission to get free press, interviews, and other opportunities to get as many eyeballs as possible on your business and mission. The bonus point is that if you are in a highly saturated marketplace, the mission is part of what will differentiate you.

In addition to being a pioneer in the eyewear industry, Warby Parker has excelled in marketing their mission. Their ‘Buy a Pair, Give a Pair’ program is a part of their business model and a compelling narrative that resonates with customers.

Through engaging content on social media and partnerships with influencers who align with their values, Warby Parker has effectively used their mission to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

5. Pay attention to trends and pivot when needed.

While having a mission-driven business makes your business model different from a traditional business, it’s at the same time no different from running any other business. Pay attention to trends and pivot when needed; ensure you stay true to your core mission.

Blueland, for instance, started with a mission to reduce single-use plastic waste through innovative cleaning products. As sustainability gained momentum, Blueland capitalized on the trend by expanding its product line and emphasizing the zero-waste movement.

They pivoted by introducing refillable cleaning tablets and leveraging a subscription model. This aligned with environmental concerns and appealed to consumers looking for convenient and eco-friendly cleaning solutions.

6. Don’t let the unknown scare you.

Starting a positive impact-driven business can be daunting, especially if you can’t find similar companies in your industry. It’s important to remember, however, that uncertainty is a natural part of the entrepreneurial journey. Instead of seeing uncertainties as a roadblock, view it as an opportunity for growth and innovation. For a positive impact-driven business, you are working to change what is, so it might be difficult to find a working blueprint. 

Take, for example, Patagonia, a renowned outdoor clothing company with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. When they started incorporating recycled materials into their products, they faced skepticism from the industry.

The path to sustainability was relatively unexplored in the fashion world then. However, Patagonia persisted; now, they are a profitable business and a beacon of sustainability in the fashion industry.

7. Learn from unrelated industries.

Finally, starting a mission-driven business might be challenging because sometimes we don’t see others doing what we do. However, while there might not be a direct working business model that you can learn from when it comes to your chosen service, product, business, or industry, there might be another unrelated service you can learn from.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you build an artificial intelligence application or create a one-in-kind coffee shop experience. So long as you have a mission, you’ll find many other examples of mission-driven companies making an impact. Draw inspiration from it, learn from it, tweak it, and apply the positives to your business. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to us to make change through the businesses we build, no matter how big or small, because the truth is – no one is coming! Together, we can truly create a positive impact on each other’s lives. 

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10 mins read

Greening the Grind: GSDS is Empowering Businesses with Eco-Friendly Technology

Global Service Digital Solutions (GSDS), is a company dedicated to transforming business interactions with a suite of eco-friendly tools ranging from digital and virtual smart business cards to pet ID tags and event promotional cards.

With sustainability taking precedence in the corporate world, traditional methods like bulky flyers and brochures are losing appeal. Today’s businesses seek eco-friendly solutions that reduce their carbon footprint.

In this interview, Ian Bryant and Yasmine Oates, the founders of GSDS, discuss the company’s origin story, delve into their innovative offerings, and share their vision for the future of business interactions.

Global Service Digital Solutions

What inspired the creation of Global Service Digital Solutions and its focus on sustainable business tools?

The credit for how GSDS started and became a company today is given to the love of roller skating. Two years ago, in the summer, we started a community-based roller-skating group called Skates in the Park where we would casually meet up with locals every Saturday in Southeastern Queens to simply– you guessed it– skate in the park.

We had a lot of positive reception for the first year and decided to bring it back last summer. During the first year of Skates in the Park, we would print out mini flyers to share our social handle, email, and phone number with business cards.

We realized that those same flyers were either left on the park tables or tossed on the playground floor in the park where we would skate. It’s crazy how fast people throw things away and we wanted to find an eco-friendly way of sharing our information.

After some thought and research, we decided that we could use a QR code as an easier way to share information for Skates in the Park and did just that. It was easier, faster, and economical, and now we had less cleanup to do when clearing out the park once we finished skating.

We realized then that this could be a business, but we wanted to be different from our competitors. We did further research for a few more months, invested in software and equipment, wrote up a business plan that we edited and re-edited, and identified the drivers for our unique selling proposition and that is when Global Service Digital Solutions was born.

Could you outline some of the products and how they help enhance customer engagement and streamline operations?

Some of the products we offer include digital business cards, dual ID business cards, and QR code stands. Our digital business cards enable customers to effortlessly share their contact information within seconds, eliminating the hassle of manual data entry on their phones and saving valuable time. No more printing or reprinting business cards. You are now reducing paper waste and freeing yourself from carrying a stack of business cards.

With just a tap or scan, you can share product offerings, business locations, and directions. You can add payment links such as Stripe, Venmo, and Cashapp making it easier to receive payments. Now, what about those times when you forget the person’s name that you met?

No worries, we always suggest to our clients to feature a headline that says what they do on their eBusiness Card Landing Page, and that headline is added as a note in the saved contact. So now that baker whose name and business you forgot is easier to find on your phone.

Our Dual ID Business Cards come with the same perks as our Digital Business Cards but also allow customers to have a 2-in-1 deal. With the Dual ID Business Card, employees have a work badge that also operates as a business card. This is a more efficient and smart way of streamlining operations while making connections.

Our Digital QR Code Stands are also very effective in streamlining operations. Think about the process that you’ve recently seen at a doctor’s office where the receptionist either asks you for your name to check you in at the computer or asks you to write your name on the check-in sheet.


Wouldn’t it be more efficient to have a Digital QR Code Stand where the patient scans it and checks in on a form online that is sent to the receptionist? This would allow the staff member to get a few seconds back for each check-in which can add up over the day, the week, and months. This time can now be put towards other tasks to help with increasing productivity in the office.

How do you ensure the security and privacy of user data collected through your products?

When it comes to security, we are constantly implementing and monitoring security updates on our content platform in compliance with industry standards. Our printed digital products have an extra layer of security with password protection which makes it extremely difficult for anyone to tamper with your information in addition to our SSL-certified website and content platform. Our content platform is securely hosted separately from our SSL-certified site on Azure infrastructure which allows us to protect data and encrypt even better in three phases:

1) At Rest

2) In Transit (when information is transferred between two or more components)

3) In Use. So, whether currently using the product or not, our infrastructure is constantly adapting and utilizing intel-based virtual machines in line with Azure’s Zero Trust Policy.


Can you share a specific example of how GSDS helped a client achieve their business goals?

Two clients in different industries come to mind with this question. For our real estate clients, we’ve noticed that some of them list their latest properties on the market on their eBusiness Card Landing Page which has led to increased inquiries about what they listed. One particular client mentioned that they closed a few deals from inquiries made on properties listed on their Digital Business Card.

Another client of ours who is a restaurateur of a well-known seafood restaurant, reaches out to us every week for updates to their menu. They love how they can easily change menu items as needed and the turnaround time without the need to reprint. It has been more cost-effective for them and allows them to pivot as needed while maintaining a smooth customer experience.


How do you envision the future of business interactions, and how will GSDS contribute to this evolution?

We are currently witnessing the future of business interactions unfold in front of our eyes and digital is playing an integral part in this.

The world is moving at an increased speed towards things such as artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) which is being applied to help streamline business operations but from a business interaction perspective, we will still need some form of personal, connected touch to how we engage with each other while thinking digital first.

We see the fusion of augmented realities such as AR holograms on digital business cards or location based QR Code Stands as a new breath of fresh air to how we interact with people creating memorable experiences. GSDS will contribute to this evolution through further research and development in hopes of adding these AR-QR-based concepts.


Global Service Digital Solutions (GSDS)


Phone:  1-929-680-6693

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10 mins read

Kwely: Empowering Africa’s Exporters in a $250 Billion Market

Kwely is a B2B wholesale distribution platform dedicated to harnessing Africa’s extensive trade possibilities, driven by the recognition of a substantial untapped export market valued at $250 billion.

In this interview, Kwely founder and CEO Birame Sock discusses the platform’s beginnings, fueled by the ambition to transform global markets for African suppliers.

What inspired you to start Kwely?

The inspiration behind founding Kwely stemmed from recognizing the substantial challenges faced by African suppliers in accessing international markets.

Witnessing the untapped export potential of $250 billion from Sub-Saharan countries, particularly with 72% being exported outside the continent, prompted a determination to overcome existing obstacles hindering Africa from tapping into this vast market.

The vision emerged from a desire to revolutionize the global trade landscape for African products, addressing issues like poor marketing, branding strategies, and low-volume manufacturing processes. The goal was to create a transformative B2B e-commerce platform, ultimately establishing Kwely as a pivotal player in connecting African suppliers with international buyers.

Are there shifts in consumer behavior or emerging markets that could impact the sourcing of African products?

Yes, several shifts in consumer behavior and emerging market trends could significantly impact the sourcing of African products. Firstly, the global trend towards conscious consumerism and sustainability has led to an increased demand for ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products. African goods, often rooted in natural and sustainable practices, are well-positioned to meet this growing demand. 

Additionally, the rise of e-commerce and the increasing preference for online shopping provide an opportunity for African products to reach a broader international audience. With Kwely operating as a B2B e-commerce platform, it aligns with the shift towards digital sourcing and facilitates the streamlined procurement of African goods.

Moreover, the diversification of product offerings, particularly in the health and wellness sector, aligns with the growing interest in natural and traditional remedies. African products like Moringa, Hibiscus, or Baobab-based items, as emphasized by Kwely, tap into this emerging market trend.

Overall, the evolving landscape of consumer preferences and the rise of online markets present favorable conditions for the sourcing of African products, positioning Kwely strategically in the global trade landscape.

What are the primary obstacles faced by African manufacturers in entering global markets, and how does Kwely help them overcome these hurdles to meet international standards?

African manufacturers face several obstacles when entering global markets, and Kwely plays a crucial role in helping them overcome these challenges to meet international standards. Some primary obstacles include:

Limited Market Access: Many African manufacturers struggle with limited access to global markets due to poor infrastructure, trade barriers, and a lack of visibility. Kwely addresses this by developing a wide distribution network through various channels including a B2B e-commerce platform that serves as a marketplace, providing a streamlined channel for international buyers to discover and purchase African products.

Inadequate Branding and Marketing: Local suppliers often lack effective branding and marketing strategies, making it challenging to compete on a global scale. Kwely’s TEKKI Challenge addresses this issue by incubating and elevating local brands for global export. The initiative ensures that products meet international standards and FDA requirements, enhancing their marketability.

Low-Volume Manufacturing Processes: Many African manufacturers operate on a smaller scale, leading to challenges in meeting the demand of international markets. Kwely tackles this obstacle by supporting local suppliers through the syndication of multiple suppliers that all follow the same production standards and partnerships with financing programs to help support suppliers to scale up their production capacity. This contributes to overcoming the hurdle of low-volume manufacturing.

Poor Financing Options: Access to financing is a common challenge for African manufacturers. Kwely recognizes the importance of resolving this issue to scale up production. The company focuses not only on technology but also on acting as the gateway between customers and suppliers thereby pre-financing certain expenses on behalf of the suppliers such as branding development and packaging purchasing. In creating higher demand, suppliers can qualify for certain loans that would allow them to fulfill the orders.

Packaging and Quality Assurance: Meeting international packaging standards and ensuring product quality are critical for global acceptance. Kwely provides in-house packaging services, supporting local suppliers in designing export-ready packaging that adheres to global quality standards. Additionally, the company implements rigorous quality assurance processes to guarantee that products listed on its platform are export-ready through a co-packing facility which allows Kwely to ensure that the packing process meets the standards.

By addressing these obstacles, Kwely acts as a catalyst for African manufacturers, enabling them to navigate the complexities of global markets and meet international standards more effectively.

What are your primary goals or aspirations for Kwely in the next few years? 

Our primary goals and aspirations for Kwely in the next few years include:

Global Distribution Leadership: Establishing Kwely as a leading global distributor of African products, emphasizing its role as a primary connector between African suppliers and international buyers.

Market Expansion: Focusing on expanding the market presence of African products beyond the continent, particularly targeting the U.S. market. This involves strategic partnerships, engagement with major U.S. retailers, and listing products on platforms like Amazon.

Brand Incubation Success: Ensuring the success of the TEKKI Challenge and brand incubation program, elevating the quality and recognition of made-in-Africa products. The goal is to empower local suppliers, fostering their growth from small enterprises to significant players in the African industrial sector.

Economic Impact: Contributing to job creation and the development of a comprehensive ecosystem, spanning agricultural initiatives, industrial production facilities, and branding and marketing services. The aim is to have a positive economic impact on local communities.

Financial Growth: Securing additional funds through ongoing fundraising efforts to support Kwely’s expansion plans and facilitate its transition into the U.S. market. This includes projections of substantial revenue growth, with a forecast exceeding $2 million by December 2024.

Sustainability and Quality: Maintaining a commitment to sustainability and quality assurance in every stage of the export process. This involves ensuring that products meet international standards and providing a holistic solution for both suppliers and buyers.

What advice would you give to other B2B marketplace founders?

My advice for other B2B marketplace founders:

  1. Understanding the Market Dynamics: For B2B marketplaces in developing countries, delve beyond technology and comprehend the gaps between buyers and suppliers. Construct your marketplace as a bridge, addressing concerns from both sides that hindered their initial business interactions.
  2. Phased Marketplace Development: Build your marketplace incrementally. Identify low-hanging fruit in terms of products, brands, and categories. Cast a wide net to identify your first customers and refine your platform based on real-world feedback.
  3. Data-Driven Decision-Making: Embrace a data-centric approach. Implement the 80-20 rule, recognizing that a minority of your products will likely contribute to the majority of your revenue. Focus marketing efforts on high-performing products and adapt to changing market dynamics. Understand that the set of high-performing products may evolve over time or with seasons. Stay agile and adapt your strategies based on real-time insights to ensure sustained marketplace success.
  4. MANAGE YOUR INVENTORY! Only buy what you need based on short term forecasts until you have a strong handle on your customer demand.

by Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

Driving Change: Shekel Mobility Raises $7 Million to Revolutionize African Car Trading

Shekel Mobility, a B2B trading platform tailored for car dealers in Africa, has secured a $7 million seed investment in its latest funding round. This financial backing comprises $3.2 million in equity and over $4 million in debt, with Ventures Platform and MaC VC leading the investment round.

The primary goal behind this infusion of capital is to fuel the expansion of Shekel Mobility’s operations into new African markets while fostering the development of innovative products and services within the platform.

Nigeria, recognized as the largest market for used cars in Africa with an estimated value of $10 billion, serves as a focal point for Shekel Mobility’s operations. Positioned as one of the key players in this lucrative market, the company stands poised to capitalize on the continuous growth of Nigeria’s economy.

The Nigerian used car market boasts a significant scale, with an annual sale of over 1 million used cars. Forecasts from a 2022 Statista report suggest a prospective escalation of the Nigerian used car market to a value of $1.3 billion by 2025.

However, despite this burgeoning demand, Africa’s car ownership remains notably lower than the global average, standing at fewer than 45 cars per 1000 people. To address this gap, emerging startups like Autochek and Moove have aimed to cater to consumer and driver needs. Yet, a critical need persists for solutions designed specifically for vehicle sellers in Africa, a void effectively filled by Shekel Mobility.

The existing market landscape in Africa remains predominantly offline and fragmented, presenting challenges for both buyers and sellers, including a lack of transparency, difficulty in sourcing suitable cars, and complex paperwork procedures.

Shekel Mobility has strategically positioned itself to tackle these obstacles by offering a centralized online platform that directly connects buyers and sellers. The platform features an array of tools empowering buyers to easily locate their ideal vehicles, leveraging detailed listings, 360-degree photos, and immersive virtual reality tours.

Since its inception, this Y Combinator-backed startup has reportedly facilitated transactions exceeding $56 million. By contributing to the expansion of over 1,400 auto dealerships and facilitating sales involving 7,000 cars, Shekel Mobility has demonstrated its impactful presence within the market.

The linchpin of the startup’s growth lies in its flagship offering, Shekel Credit. This unique service furnishes immediate financing to auto dealers, granting credit limits of up to $200,000 for vehicle acquisitions, typically ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

Under this financing structure, the dealer contributes 30% of the total cost, such as $3,000 for a $10,000 car, while Shekel covers the remaining 70% as a loan to the dealer. Upon selling the vehicle to the end customer, typically within a three-month period, the dealer reimburses Shekel, encompassing the loan interest and transaction fees associated with the car sale.

Marlon Nichols, the founder and managing partner at MaC Venture Capital, expressed enthusiasm regarding the investment round, highlighting Shekel Mobility’s potential to revolutionize and stimulate growth within Africa’s automotive industry. Nichols emphasized how the team enables substantial financial movement within the Nigerian economy while simultaneously providing affordable automobiles to locals.

by Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Grovara Is Transforming Global Trade With a Game Changing B2B Marketplace

Abu Kamara is the CEO and co-founder of Grovara, the first B2B global marketplace to connect food and beverage brands with international retailers.

To date, Grovara has raised $8.75 million on its quest to transform global trade.

In this episode, Abu shares:

  • The current state of global trade and US exports.
  • The current export process and how Grovara is disrupting it.
  • How they have raised over $8.7 million to date and what the fundraising process has been like.
  • Why he has been intentional about creating a diverse team.
  • Advice for brands that intend to expand into international stores.
  • Building an innovation center in Sierre Leone and mentoring the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

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