B2B marketplace The Folklore bags $3.4M seed to get brands into global stores

Amira Rasool founded The Folklore in 2018 to help fashion brands from emerging markets like Africa, Asia and The Caribbean tap into the international market. In 2022, the startup introduced The Folklore Connect, a B2B marketplace and wholesale management software for brands to sell to partner global retailers like Nordstrom, after it shifted from sourcing and selling directly to consumers.

What started as a mission to open the global market for fashion brands has grown into a platform that serves a diverse range of consumer companies, including those in beauty, health and wellness. Along the way, it has also enabled global retailers to source inventory from a diverse pool of creators.

Rasool told TechCrunch that the startup is introducing new services to give brands additional help they require to scale, including capital and talent. The plan follows $3.4 million raised in a seed funding round led by Benchstrength, a VC firm by ex-General Catalyst partners Kenneth Chenault Jr. and John Monagle, with the participation of existing investors Slauson & Co., Techstars and Black Tech Nation Ventures. The capital, which brings total funding raised by the startup to $6.2 million, will enable it to serve more brands.

“The key to The Folklore’s consistent user and revenue growth is continuing to build things that make sense for the customers we are targeting. We are not trying to expand too much, and just build something we think they might like; we are actually going to talk to the brands and see what the majority need, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” said Rasool.

Among its latest offerings is The Folklore Capital, offered by its partners, allowing brands to receive loans of up to $1 million as working capital. Rasool said its pilot showed that brands went for loans of between $10,000 and $30,000.

“Access to capital is probably one of the biggest things that prevents small businesses from scaling. For diverse brands in particular, there are a lot of economic hurdles that these groups face, which makes it even harder for them to access capital. Since a large makeup of our community is diverse, we wanted to make sure that they had more resources that they can use to access capital,” she noted.

“This service is particularly helpful for people who are taking on big wholesale orders from our retailers. A lot of retailers' payment terms are net 30 or net 60 (the retailer has 30 or 60 days to settle), so it is necessary for those brands to be able to have money upfront. That’s why purchase order financing was something that we prioritized because we are a company that is promoting wholesale growth. Providing access to working capital was also important so that brands could have money to hire people who can manage production, wholesale, social and more,” she said.

Its other offering is a labor marketplace for brands not in a position to hire full-time teams but require talent occasionally. Its community of brands recommends the talent or manufacturer, who are listed on the marketplace after several stages of vetting.

Brands gain access to the labor marketplace, capital and other resources, upon signing up (at a cost) on the startup’s main product, the B2B marketplace and SaaS product.