Amira Rasool is the founder of The Folklore Group, a business-to-business platform that connects retailers with brands from emerging markets across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.
“We’re specifically targeting brands that have been geographically or racially marginalized from being able to have this access to retailers,” she told CNBC Make It.
She started her company after discovering on a trip to South Africa clothing brands she had never seen or heard of before in America. After inquiring, she realized the challenge such brands face in bringing their goods to the states.
She soon realized that the challenge was not a “South African” problem but an African problem. According to her, many of the companies could not have their apparel outside of African borders because they didn’t have the technology and infrastructure to ship internationally or access U.S. retailers.
This led to the birth of her fashion empire, The Folklore Group. The company sells men’s and women’s apparel and accessories including homeware brands from Africa. In July 2021 alone, she raised $1.7 million in pre-seed investments.
To start her company, Rasool returned to South Africa, after her initial visit, to get a Masters in African Studies at the University of Cape Town. She didn’t end it there. She took trips to Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya where she built a connection with local brands.
She launched her company in 2018 with $30,000. According to her, $20,000 was from savings working with V Magazine and freelance writing while $10,000 came from her father. Her initial staff included an intern and her mother. Her mother shipped the products from her place to customers. After raising $1.7 million in pre-seed investments, she hired 12 employees in a sweeping reform.
In 2022, Rasool built a new B2B version of her site and launched The Folklore Connect which allows brands to sell their products in bulk to larger retailers. “We imagine being able to have thousands of brands from around the world using the platform,” she told CNBC Make It about her future goal. “And having hundreds of thousands of retailers.”
Rasool loved fashion growing up. While in high school, she started a fashion blog. She later worked for magazines like Marie Claire and Women’s Wear Daily as an intern while studying at Rutgers University.
In her final year semester of college, the South Orange, New Jersey, native landed a role as a fashion assistant at V Magazine.