EFOC 2024: Bootstrapping Your Business


ESSENCE

Entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the mass retail market without relying on venture capital shared their journeys on Essence Festival’s Soko Mrkt panel “Bootstrapping Your Business,” moderated by New Voice’s Vice President Chisome A’Marie. Recognizing the benefits and challenges of being self-funded, the speakers–Mona Lisa Crossway of Vanity Tools, Kimberly Evans of Just Her Ride Share, and Kitiya King of Mischo Beauty–shared strategies for getting started.

To maintain control over their businesses and avoid the complexities of external funding, the founders shared their experiences of using personal savings, funds from their day jobs, and other accessible resources to kickstart their businesses. “I used the funding that was nearest to me, which was my own money. I took money from my 9-to-5, tax returns, whatever I had access to,” said King, whose non-toxic vegan nail polish brand Mischo Beauty is now available in 237 stores.

Even as a fourth-generation entrepreneur, Kimberly Evans believed bootstrapping was the way forward. “I did not know you could go to [investors] and have them write you million-dollar checks. I barely even knew what a cap table was when I started,” she recalled. Her approach was to test her business, Her Ride Share, with no strings attached. “When you start to take venture capital money, you no longer are CEO of your company, but you become a manager of other people’s money,” she noted. “So I thought bootstrapping was the best way to maintain control and grow authentically.”

Although self-funding provided the panelists with autonomy and control over their businesses, it also led to slower growth due to limited financial resources. King pointed out that the trade-off for her has been the slower speed of growth due to reliance on personal resources and freelance support instead of external funding. Crossway also noted that funding her product development solely from personal savings had an impact on the pace of her expansion. “I will say that you’re not going to go as fast as you think you’re going to go with bootstrapping,” said Crossway, who emphasized the need to leverage partnerships to alleviate the financial constraints of scaling.

“We need and cannot do it without the people in our community,” said Evans, who admits that her business wouldn’t be here today without her network. “I crowdfunded to get here. I reached out to my people and said, ‘Listen, I need to be there, I need to be in the space.’ They responded with, ‘We’ve got you.’ And that’s why I’m here today.”

King echoed this sentiment adding, “I also started a crowdfunding campaign. My network, community, family, and friends supported me, which was crucial for keeping the business going.”



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