The LAPP clothing line. Editorial Credit: @lappthebrand, Instagram.
Black-owned businesses in the UK are behind some of the most diverse hires and fast-growing startups. According to research in ‘The Black Report,’ made by tech recruiter 10x10 in collaboration with Google for Startups, “Businesses with black founders at the helm are most likely to hire diverse teams and self fund their venture.”
Although a majority of the businesses surveyed were built over the past four years, as “93% were either live or available in beta phase with 7% yet to launch”, 77% were already generating revenue.
However, there are not nearly enough Black-owned businesses in the UK.
Monder Ram, a Professor of Small Business at the Aston Business School at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, told the Financial Times that, “250,000 of the UK’s 5.9M businesses were owned by ethnic minorities, and approximately 40,000 were black-owned. That is equivalent to 0.67 of the business base, although black people account for 3.3 percent of the population.”
While the UK scene is in dire need of more support for entrepreneurs from Black communities, it’s important to highlight the thriving number of entrepreneurs from those backgrounds already creating great companies.
The Org looked at rising black-owned businesses which have shown success in 2020 in a multitude of ways - be it though funding rounds, product innovation, or quick growth.
Beautystack was launched in 2017 by Sharmadean Reid to make the beauty industry more accessible and transparent for users. This online marketplace lets users book beauty services listed by professionals using the app. Not only has Reid been incredibly open about her entrepreneurial journey as a founder on Beautystack’s blog, but the company has also managed to secure £4 million in seed funding in 2019. Previously, the startup raised pre-seed funding from LocalGlobe, with David Rowan (ex-Wired), Julien Codorniou (Facebook Workplace), and Audrey Gelman (The Wing) as angel investors.
Everyone’s hair is different - and yet, most shampoos will cater identical formulas for straight to wavy hair, regardless of texture or thickness. Enter Dizziak, an award-winning vegan brand created by celebrity hairstylist Loretta De Feo. The company has had an explosion of popularity this year, although the brand has been trademarked since 2017. Dizziak’s deep-conditioning hair mask has not only made a number of top-10 lists in publications like Vogue, Stylist, Elle, and The Cut, but has also been dubbed the ‘Best Hair Treatment’ at this year’s Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards. The new cult classic is also a favourite of pop-singer Lily Allen, who posted about the product.
Ebonyx, a blend of Ebony and Onyx per the company’s site, is a marketplace for items that are Afrocentric in nature or are inspired by Afrocentrism. The site was founded in 2019 by Ashley Ebanks and Lucan Goering after the latter couldn’t find the items he wanted to decorate his house. Despite the fact that the marketplace has only been operating for a little over six months, it’s seen a growth of over 70k users in monthly traffic across all its social and web channels.
This online platform and print magazine was founded by Liv Little in 2015 to make content by and for women and non-binary people of colour. Little set up gal-dem while she was at Bristol University, wanting to connect with more non-white creatives in an environment she felt was saturated with people who didn’t look like her or understood her. Since then, gal-dem has become a powerhouse of a publication. It attracts over 330k unique monthly users on its website, and its annual print publication has a circulation of 8k. Since its launch four years ago, gal-dem has published 2,000 pieces of content by over 800 writers. After being supported by crowdfunding campaigns and high-flying collaborators like The Guardian and the V&A Museum for the past five years, gal-dem is now a reader-funded publication with a membership structure.
Jamii is an e-commerce website which was borne when founder Khalia Ismain wanted to create a helpful directory of businesses people could support when the #BlackLivesMatter movement was gaining ground in 2016. Over 150 businesses offering anything from beauty products, businesses services and food now trade across the Jamii platform, which also operates with a discount card system to encourage buyers to shop via the site again. Jamii raised £65k in equity finance in November 2019 and with another round gaining £65k in April of this year. The resurgence of the #BLM movement has meant that Jamii’s partner brands reported “sales 30 times higher than usual,” Ismain told the Evening Standard, adding that on the platform, “8/10 brands sampled made more revenue in the month of June 2020 alone, than in the whole of 2019. Much of this was driven by new interest and audience engagement from the non-Black community."
Every year, some five million older people in the UK fall prey to scams, collectively losing over £1.2bn. To counter this, Dr. Dexter Penn of the Dementia Research Centre at University College London (UCL) co-founded Kalgera in 2017 as an, “online personal finance platform, which applies neuroscience research and machine learning to securely alert users and their trusted family and caregivers to signs of financial vulnerability to help prevent fraud.” Kalgera received financial support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, but more recently received £100k from Nesta Challenges after being a finalist in its Open Up 2020 Challenge. The startup, listed by Which? as one of the best apps for money management during lockdown, is now developing a new version of its app after launching in beta this April.
It’s the ultimate cool-girl athleisure brand founded by former Victoria’s Secret model and activist Leomie Anderson - LAPP. The 27-year-old’s designs are worn by celebrities like Rihanna and Hayley Bieber, and she’s been featured by British Vogue. LAPP (which stands for Leomie Anderson The Project The Purpose) was started in 2016, initially as a personal blog, and had a relaunch this year on the 29th May - only four days after the death of George Floyd. Anderson’s work with LAPP has earned her a place in this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. LAPP is much more than a fashion brand - it’s also a platform which invites freelance writers to cover women’s issues in a range of topics such as lifestyle, fashion, and politics.
Founded initially with a focus on helping UK migrants find more affordable car insurance, Marshmallow Insurance was set up in 2017 by twins Oliver and Alexander Kent-Braham, along with David Goate. It has since earned a reputation as the new kid on the insurance block, valued at around £232m. Marshmallow has plans to grow internationally and provide more than just car insurance over the next few years. The company has raised £5.18m in equity funding so far, including £3.45m from Passion Capital in January of this year.
The British hospitality industry is worth over £20bn. Pace Revenue is cleverly tapping into the ballooning sector by providing services which allow hoteliers to visualise data and present it to stakeholders. The company, which uses machine learning to evaluate real-time demand of prices, was founded in 2016 by Jens Munch, John-Paul Clarke, & Jason Pinto. Despite a team of only 20, the small company has raised £4.5M in funding, its latest injection of cash being £2.01m from Impact X Capital Partners in April 2019.
TikTok may have helped some of us get through lockdown through dance routines and whipped coffee recipes, but it’s also made a number of influencers millionaires and house-hold names. Yoke Network understands the power harnessed in TikTok as a social media tool and helps creators and companies create successful short-form video campaigns. It’s worked with a range of clients - from online bank Revolut to online fashion house Pretty Little Thing (PLT). Co-founders Jidé Maduako and Mustafa Mohamed, the respective CEO and CTO, met at university and launched Yoke Network in 2018. Mohamed told Forbes that the startup generated revenues of £250k in 2019, and doubled that in the first quarter of 2020. He expects to turn over £2m by the end of this year.
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