Fashion is a lifelong passion for Amira Rasool.
“I was always the one laying out my outfits for the first day of school, like two weeks before school,” she says. She started out doing internships at magazines such as Marie Claire and Women’s Wear Daily while at Rutgers University. She got a role as a fashion assistant at V Magazine during her final semester of college.
That same year, she also traveled to South Africa and discovered local clothing brands she had never heard of in America. When she returned, she found there was no way to take them abroad. And “this wasn’t just a problem in South Africa,” she says. “This is a pan-Africa problem.” Many brands do not have the technology, infrastructure, or access to US retailers to take apparel outside African borders to ship internationally. I did.
This trip sowed the idea of a company that could do just that, and Rasool eventually founded The Folklore Group. This includes a business-to-business platform that connects global retailers with brands in emerging markets such as Africa, South America, Asia and the Caribbean, markets where consumers can discover these brands, and a newsroom to write about them. increase.
“We specifically target brands that are geographically or racially marginalized from retail access,” she says. Raised $1.7 million in pre-seed investments.
How she built her fashion empire.
“My mother used to only ship items from her home.”
After his first visit to South Africa, Rasool sought a way back home to set up a company. She decided to pursue her Master’s Degree in African Studies at the University of Cape Town and from there began traveling to Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya to learn about other brands and build connections with her business her owners. rice field.
Rasool officially launched The Folklore in September 2018. It is a consumer-facing business that sells men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, as well as homeware brands from across Africa. She also sold merchandise from black business owners in the diaspora.
She had $30,000 to start with, $20,000 saved from working and freelance writing for V Magazine, and $10,000 from her father. , “My mom would just ship items from her house to customers,” she says. “It was very much a community effort.”
Rasool lived in Cape Town until completing his degree, but returned to the US in February 2020, first in New Jersey and then in Atlanta. The company found an investor and was able to expand. Folklore now employs 12 of his people in all.
Instead of competing with Nordstrom, they would ‘work with them’
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Rasul noticed that retailers were aggressively looking for black-owned brands to start stocking and selling.
The Folklore didn’t have the reach of the big retailers and could end up competing for the same customers. But if the company is the connective tissue between brands and big retailers, it could “work with them” rather than “compete with Nordstrom and Saks, who are currently interested in these brands.” she says.
She also said, “We thought that if we could have more stores in stock than just The Folklore, we could have a bigger impact on the brand,” she says.
Rasool decided to focus on building the B2B version of the site, launching The Folklore Connect in 2022. This wholesale platform allows brands to sell their products in bulk to large retailers.
‘We know our problems better than anyone else’
Our goal for the future is growth.
“We imagine we can have thousands of brands around the world using this platform,” she said, adding, “We can have hundreds of thousands of retailers.” , for example, we want to expand our categories to include hygiene products and children’s, and expand our price range to work with different types of retailers.
As for advice to other Black entrepreneurs, “I would say look at the problems we have within our communities, such as the problems we face, and create solutions,” she said. increase.
Ultimately, she says, “We know our stories, we know our problems better than anyone else.”
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