And it’s all too easy to make a misstep. Knowing how to stay on course (or correct the course when things get tough) — well, that’s a whole lot harder.
Today, we’re sharing three fundamental growth lessons from the launch and meteoric rise of five inspiring Black-owned brands. From recognizing an unmet need to maintaining your customer’s trust as you scale, these founder insights will help any seller stay on course toward rapid growth.
Growth lessons from leading Black-owned brands:
- Lesson #1. Solve a problem other brands have ignored.
- Lesson #2. Choose your partners wisely.
- Lesson #3. Always be transparent.
Lesson #1. Solve a problem other brands have ignored.
In the 1890s, Madame C.J. Walker became the first Black hair care millionaire, launching her own line of products and styling tools. And it all started with a daily unmet need she herself had experienced in her work as a laundress.
The harsh chemicals she was forced to use made her hair and skin dry and brittle. Products made for white women often didn’t work for her, or for thousands of other silently suffering Black women.
An entrepreneur at heart, Madame Walker recognized the magnitude of the problem. She set out to create a solution specifically for Black hair, skin, and nails.
And the rest is history.
Today, all-natural e-commerce marketplace BLK + GRN follows in Madame Walker’s footsteps, curating some 214 products from over 65 Black artisans. From rich body butters, sunscreen, and multivitamins, all products are custom created for Black and Brown audiences.
Soft-launched in 2017, BLK+GRN founder Kristian Henderson told Beauty Independent she is on a mission to “radically disrupt the global economy to equitably include small, black-owned businesses by empowering artisans to grow and scale their businesses.”
By creating an e-commerce marketplace specifically for Black products and audiences, Henderson and her team are solving the problem of finding the right wellness products for millions of shoppers across the US.
And the growth potential is virtually limitless.
According to an article by Tamara E. Holmes for Essence magazine, “African-Americans spend $1.2 trillion each year.” Yes, that’s trillion with a ‘t’.
While the growth of the wellness category is certainly massive, it’s also indicative of a fundamental truth for e-commerce sellers in any niche: If you know your customer and cater specifically to their needs, the growth will always follow.
“In 2018 the Black hair care industry raked in an estimated $2.51 billion, as Black consumers have progressively made the switch from general products to those that specifically cater to them,” wrote Holmes.
Top takeaway: E-commerce is an especially lush marketplace for brands serving niche communities. Any brand that can commit to targeted product research can tap into a deeply loyal customer base other retailers don’t cater to.
Lesson #2. Choose your partners wisely.
Speaking of health and wellness, the green revolution is alive and well — and ambitious brands are taking note. Coupled with the right lifestyle messaging, these brands are experiencing extraordinary growth in the area of sustainable e-commerce. And they’re doing it on their terms.
Take Good Vibes for example. With over 15,000 bottles sold, Good Vibes is a powerful, all-purpose, plant-based household cleaner that comes in holistic scents such as frankincense and myrrh, sandalwood, and nag champa.
Similarly, Golde, a Black-owned family business started in a Brooklyn apartment by Trinity Mouzon Wofford and Issey Kobori recently inked a deal to market their products on-shelf in 460 Targets across the US, as well as online.
“You can always tell when a partner is reaching out with the singular goal of highlighting you as a Black-owned business,” Mouzon Wofford told Beauty Independent. In this case, she and Kobori felt that Target was in it for the stellar-quality product line — not the representation kudos.
Golde makes vegan elixirs powered by single-origin superfoods. Products range from tasty blended beverages to beauty products for nutrient-rich self-care, such as the Coconut Collagen Boost and Clean Greens purifying face mask.
The company officially broke seven figures in revenue in 2020, growing five times what it was in 2019. And they did it at the pace that worked for them.
“Today, there is too much pressure on young brands to establish themselves and grow as quickly as possible,” said Mouzon Wofford in a separate interview on why she decided to turn investors away in order to revisit at a later and more organic stage in their growth journey.
Top takeaway: Everyone’s growth story is different. Explore your options for investment and distribution as you grow, but don’t be afraid to say no to the opportunities that don’t feel aligned with where your brand is today.
Lesson #3. Always be transparent.
Before big box retailers began partnering with artisans from underrepresented communities, many shoppers were resigned to a mere quarter-section of a store’s product aisles.
To access more options, Black shoppers had to routinely trek off the beaten brick-and-mortar path to get the products they needed via online apothecaries and shops. Once they found what they were looking for, they tended to stay loyal.
That’s where brands like all-natural bath and beauty company Herb’N Eden really shine. So much so, that the brand founders went from making soap at home in their kitchen in 2015 to $260K in sales in 2019 and $2.7 million in 2020 — simply by being phenomenal at what they do.
Owners Quinton and Terran Lewis met at the Georgia State freshman dorms in 2009. One year after they were married in 2014, the power couple founded Herb’N Eden with the goal of bringing natural skin-care products to the forefront of the market. Today, they own a 6,400-square-foot warehouse, a brick-and-mortar store, and a highly successful online shop.
The couple attributes their 10X year-on-year growth to a commitment to paid ads, being at the right place at the right time (i.e., selling hygiene products during a global health pandemic), and remaining hyper-transparent about who they are and what they do.
When asked by Tony O. Lawson of Shoppe Black, Quinton and Terran said that what really makes them different is their story. “I want people to know, you can do this,” said Quinton.
But no matter how inspiring a story, that kind of overnight growth can be tough to keep up with. When sales were skyrocketing and inventory was low, here’s how Quinton said they handled it:
“There were times when I was trying to slow down the orders by pushing out the fulfillment time and people were still ordering. It could have been bad, but I think what really benefited us is we were transparent like we always have been. We were literally telling people, ‘Hey, this is how much we’re growing. This is what’s going on. Logistics is messed up because of the pandemic, we’re growing at this rate, we make everything in-house…’ And with all this going on, people understood.”
And the team at Herb’N Eden isn’t alone in sharing a strong belief in the power of transparency.
After her own battle with bacterial vaginosis, The Honey Pot founder Beatrice Dixon told dot.LA that she received a list of ingredients from her grandmother in a dream. She began formulating high-quality natural menstrual care items, emphasizing women’s comfort and health.
Recently, when The Honey Pot was rumored to have been sold after changing some of its ingredients, Beatrice took to Instagram to share a heartfelt letter and set the story straight with fans and customers.
Top Takeaway: In the world of e-commerce, stuff happens. No matter how hairy things get, commit to serving your community with transparency and they’ll repay you with their trust.
With the right approach, e-commerce growth is always within reach
As an e-commerce owner, your expansion depends on your ability to creatively differentiate and solve overlooked problems for the customers who need you.
By staying true to their brands and being intentional in their decision-making, these inspiring founders experienced rapid growth on their terms.
So focus your product research and development on the people who need it most. Take a genuine interest in the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of your customers. And communicate with transparency when things inevitably get tough.
Before you know it, you’ll be joining the ranks of the high-growth brands that came before you.
At SellersFi, we’re proud to partner with e-commerce innovators who are actively thinking outside the box to better serve their customers and scale their stores. We’re changing the way e-commerce sellers grow by providing them with fast, flexible funding options they can’t find anywhere else. Reach out today to learn more about how SellersFi can help you scale.