Reviewed: Why Fashion Girls Love The Folklore

What inspired you to start your business? My undergraduate experience inspired me to start The

What inspired you to start your business?

My undergraduate experience inspired me to start The Folklore. While attending Rutgers, I majored in African American and African Studies. Before I started the program, I had not been exposed to that much Black literature, art, and innovation. Many of the people I studied the most during college—James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston—all produced work that was impactful and pushed Black social, economic, and political agendas forward. I decided then that I would dedicate all of my career pursuits to serve the same purpose.

Having had experience in the fashion media space and in e-commerce, I knew I could build a platform that would provide African designers with the ability to further monetize their brands through capturing the attention of global audiences. Fashion is a major revenue driver in countries around the world—it employs so many people. I wanted to start a business that could leave that type of impact in black and brown communities.

How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected my business a great deal. I was in the middle of raising our pre-seed round right when the orders were put in place. Many of the investors I was speaking to told me they had to focus their attention on their current portfolio companies before they could return to having conversations with me. That was hard because I was confident that I would raise the money by spring.

Instead of being discouraged, I decided to shift my efforts to restructure our finances and business model to fit our current financial position and our deep decline in sales. I moved our products out of our space in NYC and brought them home to New Jersey so I could ship orders without leaving my home. I cut over a dozen $10- and $15-a-month subscriptions and brought my expenses down to the bare minimum.

After figuring out our new financial plan, we connected with the 30-plus designer brands that we work with. We checked to see how they were doing, how COVID-19 affected their business, and how we could help. We shifted from being just an e-commerce channel to being a source of support almost immediately. We hosted a virtual fashion conference alongside a number of our designers and fashion editors from Condé Nast to raise funds for African-based brands impacted by COVID-19.

We are now making plans to offer more business services that will allow brands to create online direct-to-consumer businesses of their own instead of relying solely on multi-brand retailers. We are also partnering with other people in the industry to build a nonprofit that could continue to help these brands long after the orders are lifted.

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