11 Black ECommerce Founders Inspiring Us During Black History Month
February 24, 2022
Photo: Best Today founder Shunta Grant by Mecca Gamble Photography
ECommerce is leveling the playing field for small and medium-sized sellers, and we love seeing amazing minority founders use the opportunity to create a more inclusive shopping experience online.
Here at 8fig, we’re passionate about democratizing online retail and learning from their inspiring founders. In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve gathered growth tips from Black eCommerce founders below.
Learn how these trailblazers are growing their brands in 2022 through community building, growth tactics, product quality, and determination.
1. Embrace a Growth Mindset and Learn from Failure
The first step to becoming a successful entrepreneur is believing that you can. Shifting to a growth mindset means you’ll see new challenges as opportunities and constantly ask yourself what you could accomplish if failure wasn’t an option.
Anita Pingue, the founder of Wexist, knows that her business growth is directly tied to her daily affirmations and mindset. She created the brand to empower tall girls and tall women and bring awareness to the world WEXIST! Shifting her mindset allowed Anita to launch her first jogger set (which became a bestseller!), moved into an office space, get Supa_cent and WNBA players to wear her brand, and more.
“I have affirmed the growth of my business and receive tangible results daily,” Anita said. “I have wanted to quit so many times, but I now understand the meaning of success. There is no success without failure.”
2. Use Social Media to Build Authority and Trust
Social media allows brands to engage with their audiences day in and day out. Establish authority in your space and build trust with your audience by curating a social media experience that is true to your brand’s core values.
Lala Inuti Ahari, the founder of The Conjure, uses cross-marketing between Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube to drive sales and educate existing and future customers about the power of positive spells.
“There is no denying it, social media is a powerful business tool. It offers a way for companies to attract new customers and engage with existing ones,” Lala explained. “Aside from promoting products, it also lets entrepreneurs establish themselves as an authority in their field by responding to comments, questions, and concerns.”
Social media gave Lala the chance to connect with thousands of people who believe in spirituality and want to use energy to come out of their financial and emotional problems. In 2020, this strategy helped bring in $6.5 million in revenue for her energetic candle brand and she has more than doubled this growth in 2021.
“It’s the passion that drives you forward in life. Otherwise, I would have been happy with my banking job and made a fixed amount of money every month. But that wasn’t what I wanted,” Lala added. “If you are passionate about something, working hard for it won’t seem too big a deal.”
3. Stay True to Your Brand’s Values
It’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends or be inspired by competitors, but to build an authentic brand you must develop core values and stay true to them when making decisions.
Shanise Spruill, the founder of JOHARI & LOU Artisan Soul Stones, focuses on authenticity when brand building. “Be inspired but remain authentic,” Shanise said. “We can be influenced by what other brands or businesses are doing — operate in ways that are organic to you.”
Before her crystal-inspired energy brand underwent a rebrand, she took a year off to focus on her spiritual growth and mental wellness. “When I decided to re-emerge, I moved to expand our handcrafted jewelry pieces and launched a business model that would address total health as well as one’s individuality,” Shanise explained.
Today, the brand’s impact is stronger than ever. Most unsold inventory such as self-care items are donated to veterans or local USO and the brand is committed to offering community services that elevate and embrace energetic health.
4. Build Community In-Person and Online
Building a community around your product is what sets successful brands apart from the rest. The Cause Mall is a meaningful marketplace where people shop for everyday lifestyle products and gifts based on causes they would like to support, and founder Jocelyn M. Reaves is spreading the word about this intentional shopping experience by community building on and offline.
“We’re bringing our virtual presence in-person as we host pop-ups across the country,” said Jocelyn. “We are also focusing on the ways that we can support the sellers that join our marketplace with business courses, coaching, and community
through The Cause Club.”
The Cause Mall aims to create a more intentional shopping experience. In the marketplace, you’ll find sellers who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+, woman-owned, and veteran-owned businesses; products that are sustainably sourced, handmade, and cruelty-free, as well as brands that donate a portion of proceeds to charity.
5. Expand to New Markets and Marketplaces
Once you’ve tested your product-market fit in one online marketplace, it’s time to expand your opportunities! This could mean launching onto a new online marketplace, building an omnichannel experience, or opening a brick and mortar retail shop.
Steven Burton, Founder & CEO of Perfect Tux, is looking forward to expanding from online to in-person in 2022. “Here at Perfect Tux, we’re investing in growth by opening our first retail store and redesigning our website to improve conversion rates and average order volume.”
Perfect Tux is the leading online provider of fashionable and unique men’s formal wear. Burton launched the shop after working in formalwear for 9 years. He was frustrated with the lack of diversity in the industry and the horrible shopping experience of buying tuxedos or suits online and aims to solve these problems with top-quality products and exceptional service.
6. Surround Yourself With a Great Team
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but that doesn’t mean you should do it alone. Finding a great team to support you on your path to growth is essential for business and personal success.
Ming Ley, the founder of Luxe Pout Cosmetics, founded her handmade cosmetics brand during the pandemic. This came with its own set of challenges, but Ley knew that staying mission-driven and surrounding herself with a strong team would help her succeed.
“Growing a business is hard work, however if you stay diligent and continuously have fresh ideas everything comes along well,” Ming Ley said. “It is also important to have a great team by your side.”
In addition, Ming Ley is promoting growth in 2022 by utilizing free resources, taking advantage of trends, marketing with social media, and delivering on product consistency.
7. Use Content Marketing to Educate Your Target Audience
When Chasity Pritchett was researching her soon-to-be competitors in the olive oil space, she realized there was a huge gap in representation for the black and brown community. Nobody was directly marketing the benefits of olive oil to people of color or educating how quality olive oil products can help fight against heart disease, strokes, depression, and more.
Because of this gap, Chasity chose to build a strong content marketing strategy around her product Emblem Olive Oil. This enables Emblem Olive Oil to get people of color excited to cook healthier home meals through education and free resources.
“Be authentic, make your own unique space, and the world will show up,” Chastity advised. “We’re continuing to grow by connecting with customers by building a community through knowledge, content, and recipes!”
8. Grow Organically With Micro-Influencers
You don’t need a large influencer budget to make a splash. Sip Herbals, a Black Woman-owned herbal coffee substitute, reached out to micro-influencers in their network to grow organically from 140 customers to 2,000.
“We share samples with micro-influencers and 9 times out of 10, they love our product and want to tell their followers about it so we partner with them to become paid ambassadors,” co-founder Orleatha Smith explains. “This is how we’ve managed to grow organically on a bootstrapped budget. We used what we had and who we knew to grow.”
The certified Black Woman-Owned Business created a coffee substitute designed for your gut. The product is caffeine and gluten-Free, keto, vegan, paleo, and AIP-friendly.
9. Create a Community Your Target Audience Wants to Live In
Building community is about more than just knowing your audience, it’s about creating an inspiring space for that audience to live in. Anthony and Trinity, the cofounders of Following Your Hunch, are passionate about the audience their outdoor lifestyle brand is geared towards — and it shows throughout Following Your Hunch’s branding and marketing.
“Our audience is made up of those special individuals that naturally ignite and inspire other explorers alike to be, achieve, and create freely in their lives,” Anthony explained. “Because of this, we are growing and developing our brand using various mediums that help to expand individuals’ imaginations using creative imagery and bold statements with timeless style.”
Following Your Hunch combines urban expression and outdoor exploration to create unique products. “Our intention from the beginning has always been to grow with the brand; not to; out-grow, the brand,” Anthony added.
10. Prioritize Your Mental and Physical Health
Being an entrepreneur is hard work. Running an eCommerce business means wearing many hats, adapting to constant changes, and turning problems and setbacks into new opportunities. Being your own boss can also be lonely and isolating, which is why focusing on mental and physical wellness can make or break an entrepreneurial journey.
Marissa Alert of CoziRose recognizes the importance of wellness when you’re trying to expand your business. “We started the year off by prioritizing our physical and mental health,” Marissa said. “We recognize how important it is to be healthy in order to give 100% and manage the stress that comes with running a business. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s been paying off and we’re way more focused.”
11. Protect Your Brand Identity with a Trademark
Another way to stand out from competitors is by protecting your intellectual property and company assets. Trademarks can offer protection for everything from your logo to your product names. And if you’ve done unique product development, a patent can stop other companies from mimicking your invention for a certain period of time.
Chantay Bridges, founder of Bridges Publishing House, explained why a trademark made sense for her business at this stage. “A business is more than just opening your doors and hoping clients will come in, it’s a way of forging greatness in your sphere of influence and sharing that dividend with the rest of the world. Trademarks distinguish a brand from its competitors and give brands their very own footprint.”
To recap, we spoke with 12 Black eCommerce founders during Black History Month to hear their tips for hypergrowth in 2022. From building inspiring customer communities to prioritizing mental health, these tips can be a guiding light as you scale your own eCommerce business.
Now that you’ve heard from these successful Black eCommerce founders, are you ready to kickstart your growth? We help sellers scale their online stores to new heights with continuous capital aligned to every stage of the supply chain. Fund your eCommerce growth today by starting here.
Karlyn is an eCommerce writer and Content Marketing Manager for 8fig. She's on a mission to democratize online retail by empowering small and medium-sized businesses with resources and tools they need to compete in dynamic marketplaces.