Browse Tag

ecommerce

1 min read

ECOMSPACES: The One-Stop Shop for E-Commerce Business Success

Atlanta-based ECOMSPACES provides a collaborative workspace that caters specifically to the needs of online retailers.

From marketing assistance to private offices, dedicated desks, and inventory management solutions, ECOMSPACES equips entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive.

In this interview, co-founder and CEO Maïré Bavarday-Rosa shares her inspiring journey from a bedroom startup to a global e-commerce support hub.

Topics Covered:

  • The founding story of EcomSpaces
  • Comprehensive e-commerce services under one roof
  • Success stories of member brands
  • Global reach and international client support
  • Plans for expansion and growth
  • Insights into the e-commerce industry

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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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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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3 mins read

E-Commerce is Creating Investment Opportunities in This Real Estate Niche

The increase in e-commerce activity, labor constraints, and customer expectations about product delivery time are exerting pressure on supply chains and driving demand for industrial real estate.

Small bay warehouses specifically. This sector has outperformed its larger counterparts by a significant margin, despite the hype surrounding larger distribution facilities acquired by major tenants such as Amazon.

Amazon and other e-commerce fulfillment organizations are responsible for roughly 40% of industrial property leases, and that number is steadily rising as companies rush to include e-commerce as part of their business models. 

According to a recent industrial real estate report, companies leased more than 137.9 million square feet of industrial space in the third quarter of 2021, a new record. The most popular size category was between 10,000 and 49,000 square feet, which accounted for more than half of the leasing activity.

To reach and retain customers, retailers are shifting their attention to providing consistent, speedy delivery in dense population clusters. As firms continue to adopt same-day and one-day delivery, the strategic importance of the last mile cannot be understated.

As retailers and logistics companies strive for greater consumer accessibility, rents for well-located light industrial buildings in heavily populated, developing markets will continue to exceed those for larger warehouses in remote regions.

Properties under 70,000 square feet have the lowest average availability (5.8 percent) of any size range, as well as both the highest average rents and, have experienced rent growth of 33% between 2015 and 2020.

Leases tend to be shorter-term, which allow rents to adjust more quickly to market and new demand conditions. As a result, market rents for smaller spaces tend to be less volatile over the long-term. In addition, small warehouse market rents tend to outperform larger bulk distribution spaces in both periods of economic strength and weakness.

Small bay industrial facilities also benefit from low operating and capital expenses, which generate high cash flow efficiency relative to other property types.

E-commerce will keep driving the need for industrial space, and as a result, this new urban logistics asset class will spark more developer and investor interest.

We hope this guide was helpful and shows that with any type of investment, it pays to do your homework.

Tony O. Lawson

 

 

3 mins read

6 Ways Digital Consumer Behavior is Changing in 2022

A digital consumer may be defined as someone using technology to look for and purchase products and services on the internet. Digital consumer behavior is anything that a person does online.

As the needs of these consumers evolve, brands are trying to meet the growing expectations.

This article explores the six consumer behavior trends expected to reshape commerce the most in the year ahead.

1. Sustainability

Globally, 60% of consumers consider sustainability an important purchase criterion. This figure in the US is slightly higher than the global average, at 61%. Consumers are looking for environmentally friendly alternatives when purchasing, increasing the demand for sustainable products. Consumers also see themselves as change agents, implying the need for companies to adapt to this growing trend.

2. Fast Delivery

Convenience plays a significant role in consumer purchasing decisions—the greater the convenience, the higher the demand for the brand. Most consumers make instant online purchases and prefer to receive their products the same day rather than waiting. According to statistics, 49% of shoppers say that same-day delivery makes them more likely to shop online.

3. Product Personalization

Consumers now view personalization as the standard for engagement. Approximately 71% of consumers expect businesses to provide personalized interactions, and 76% are irritated when this does not happen. Consumers expect brands to send them customized emails and messages, which increases their trust in the brand. Research has found that companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players.

4. Human Touch

85% of the marketers say a human touch is needed in addition to technology for a positive consumer experience. Consumers readily purchase products from brands with which they are intimately acquainted. People nowadays are less likely to purchase products that are solely focused on selling them. They seek an emotional connection and relation with a brand that understands their needs.

5. Inclusivity

Almost two-thirds of consumers are at least somewhat likely to purchase a product immediately after seeing it advertised if the brand embodies diversity and inclusion. People look for brands that accept them, especially in today’s world, where people identify themselves in unique ways. Companies seeking to increase brand loyalty must prioritize diversity and inclusion in their marketing strategy in order to build trust and respect with their customer base.

6. Metaverse Shopping

Virtual commerce technologies have the potential to take online shopping to the next level. These changes started with the use of augmented and virtual realities but are now extending to the metaverse. These advancements could add more dimension to the online experience, including re-creating elements of the physical world.

Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

5 Global Trends Affecting the Fashion Industry

Fashion trends continue to evolve and change daily. A major key to being successful in the fashion industry is to identify these trends and act on them before your competitors.

However, many fashion companies find it difficult to do this since they may not have a good understanding of the global trends affecting their industry.

The revenue of the global apparel market for 2021 was estimated to be around 1.5 trillion USD, and it was expected to rise to about 2 trillion by 2026. The industry is quickly moving towards growth while these trends are still evolving. If you want to learn more about the global trends that are affecting the fashion industry right now, keep reading!

1. Sustainability

67% of consumers consider sustainable materials to be a factor in purchasing a fashion item. Sustainability is a significant trend in the fashion industry, and it’s not going away anytime soon. The popularity of sustainable clothing has been on the rise for years, but now more than ever, people prioritize this type of clothing.

Consumers seem to prefer organic fabrics made without harsh chemicals or pesticides that can pollute our landfills or bodies when worn by humans over time. They’re also great for sensitive skin types because they’re free from synthetic dyes in many conventional fabrics (like polyester).

2. Inclusivity

Inclusivity is good for business. A more diverse mindset creates better products, which makes the brand more competitive in the marketplace. As we’re seeing with the fashion industry, it attracts a more extensive customer base that might otherwise be overlooked or ignored.

There is a huge shift toward inclusivity, particularly concerning body types. Brands are realizing that their customers want more than just one kind of model—and they’re responding by making room for all kinds of bodies and identities.

3. Influencer Culture

Influencer culture is still a powerful tool for brands to reach consumers. Influencers help reach new markets and find new fans, and as the influencer economy continues to grow, we’re seeing more and more brands getting involved.

Consumers want to know what they’re buying is authentic—and they’re increasingly turning toward influencers who can tell them via their personal channels like Instagram.

4. Retailers are Going Digital

Customers are shopping online now more than ever before. And with good reason: online shopping is convenient, cheaper, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible. So, it’s no wonder that many retailers are focusing on their web presence first when it comes to marketing efforts.

5. Resale Culture

According to a survey, there were 52.6 million total clothing resellers in 2020, primarily online in the US. Both resale sites and rental platforms have emerged as a sustainable alternative to fast, disposable fashion. Consumers are getting more comfortable with the idea of owning less and paying for temporary access to items they need instead of buying them outright.

The fashion industry is changing fast, and brands that don’t keep up with these trends will lose out. To remain competitive, they must embrace sustainability, digital-first retailing, and smarter consumers who want instant gratification and inclusivity of all body types.

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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1 min read

Black Owned Customer Service Platform Chatdesk Raises $7 Million to Support E-commerce Brands

Chatdesk is a Black-owned customer service platform that helps companies deliver better customer service with messaging and analytics.

Founded in 2018 by Andrew Olaleye and Aneto Okonkwo, Chatdesk aims to bridge the gap between customers and companies.

While most people believe that Artificial Intelligence will eventually replace jobs that are done by people today, Chatdesk helps create job opportunities for the “Superfans” of eCommerce brands while leveraging machine learning to enable brands to deliver best-in-class support.

The New York-based startup recently raised $7 million in a round led by Cultivation Capital, with participation from Harlem Capital, Serena Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Stormbreaker Ventures, and Fika Ventures.

This funding will enable Chatdesk to help more brands scale their customer service 24/7 and drive sales on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.

Leading up to the fundraise, Chatdesk saw revenue growth of 300% year-over-year driven by a sharp increase in the volume of customer service tickets for e-commerce brands.

As the COVID-19 pandemic increased both the need for customer support and demand for remote work, Chatdesk has accumulated a waitlist of 5,000+ people that are excited to become customer support Superfans for the brands on the platform.

“We’re grateful to our customers and will use the new funds to grow our team, help more brands and create even more jobs,” says Aneto.

Tony O. Lawson


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2 mins read

Saltbox Raises $10.6 Million To Provide E-Commerce Businesses With Logistics Support

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the global e-commerce industry. Not only are more people shopping online than ever before, more people are also starting online businesses. According to Shopify, one of the largest digital retail platforms, online store creation on its platform rose 79% in 2020 over 2019.

Saltbox is an Atlanta-based “co-warehousing” startup that provides space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants to operate as well as store and ship goods, all under one roof.

saltbox

Saltbox has private “warehouse suites”, loading dock access, a self-service packing center, warehouse equipment for use, a photography stage, and more, all specifically geared toward e-commerce and retail entrepreneurs.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods.

Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient, noted Saltbox CEO, Tyler Scriven.

saltbox

Their Atlanta location opened in November 2019 and has 27,000 square feet of space, all of which is full, according to Scriven.

Recently, Saltbox raised a $10.6M Series A round to accelerate its expansion across the United States. They also recently opened a 66,000-square-foot warehouse near Dallas. The Dallas area location marks the first expansion for the company outside Atlanta since it launched in 2019. They plan to expand into Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles next.

Tony O. Lawson


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4 mins read

Arsha Jones on Entrepreneurship & Building Her Million Dollar Businesses

According to Washington, D.C. native, Arsha Jones, she’s not an entrepreneur. She simply makes the things she wants to see in the world.
According to Black Enterprise, The Washington Post, and a rapidly growing Facebook group of over 30, 000 active members, she’s the go to source for heavily demanded products as well as advice on how to grow your own profitable business.
Arsha and her husband Charles, founded Capital City LLC, a specialty foods manufacturer that produces DC’s favorite chicken wing condiment, Mambo sauce.
SB:Some business experts preach the importance of focus. They say to focus on one idea and then move on. As someone who has started multiple businesses, what are your thoughts on focusing on one idea at a time versus managing multiple business ideas at once?
 
AJ: I’d agree. People see these businesses I’ve created and want to do the same, not realizing that I started with one site that sold one product and had one page with a link to one Paypal button.
I tell people all the time, don’t compare your Day 1 to someone else’s Day 3,502. Focus on one product. Build a team. Make sure that the brand is profitable and successful, then move on to something else. Three half-assed brands mean nothing if they aren’t supporting your lifestyle.
SB: What advice do you have for couples who are either in business together or own separate businesses?
AJ: Have patience. What helps us is having separate roles. I handle design, marketing, social media, public relations, and growth. My husband Charles, handles everything that keeps the business running on a daily basis.  Our duties don’t usually overlap, so we both have a chance to be excellent – separately.
SB: You have found amazing success online with both of your businesses. If you could attribute that to one thing, what would it be?
AJ: Me being eager to learn more and willing to do anything to get better. I didn’t look for help. I didn’t look for a hand out. When I wanted to learn something I spent hours online researching and loved every minute of it. I’m successful because I outwork most people.
SB: What is the most fulfilling part of your entrepreneurial journey?
AJ: Seeing my children love what we do and be proud of what we’ve built.
SB: What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
AJ: Traveling this road alone and not having a business network to help me along the way.
SB: If you could wake up tomorrow with one superpower, what would it be and why?
 
AJ: Unlimited energy.
SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
AJ: Just start and don’t overthink. Part of the journey is making mistakes along the way. If you’re afraid to make mistakes, then being an entrepreneur is not for you.

-Tony O. Lawson


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