May 23, 2022

Powered by People, a wholesale e-commerce platform in Kenya, has received $5 million in seed funding to increase transaction volume by increasing the number of small brands using their online B2B marketplace to attract international buyers.

The equity funding was led by Susa Ventures and Golden Ventures with a number of investors including Flexport Ventures, Jay Ventures and DraftKings founder Fabric. This brings the total funding raised by the startup to $7 million, which previously received support from several investors including Founders Factory Africa, Mercy Corps and the Mastercard Foundation.

Powered by People connects small brands with retailers who love supply chain transparency, sustainability, and small batch production. Companies that are also driven by the need for diversity and strive to support small sellers as they move beyond the ranks of conscientious customers are also supporting. Continue.

Powered by People co-founder and CEO Ella Pinovich said of the equity investment, “As we continue to develop our technology…large orders and growth, we are also investing in the development of our senior management. ,

The startup works with more than 200 brands and more than 45,000 artisans in 47 countries, selling to retailers like West Elm and The Citizenry in key markets including North America and Asia. By mid-March, the company announced a total gross commercial value of $15 million and expects to increase to $25 million by the end of the year. Orders on the platform average $1,200.

“We are giving these companies a new perspective on the specialty retail market in North America. We also offered them in bulk, which we think is the best way to buy in any country and also makes business sense.”

The startup also provides merchants with up to 50% upfront financing, allowing them to quickly process customer orders. The 120-day credit line attracts 5% interest. The startup has already provided $5.8 million in loans to merchants and plans to spend another $10 million before the end of the year.

Ella Penovich co-founded People Driven with Hedwig Alexander and Alison Phillips.

“It is absolutely true that many of our manufacturers will not be in big business because they do not have cash flow. We allocate funds so that they can develop their business,” she said.

Pinovich, Hedwig Alexander and Alison Phillips founded People Driven in 2019 to provide new brands with access to global markets. For Pinovich, this was not the first creation of a social enterprise. In 2011, she partnered with Katherine Mahugu and Gwendolyn Floyd to launch Soko, a fashion brand that collaborates with thousands of artisans to create products to sell in international markets. She moved to Kenya after graduating from MIT 10 years ago and served as CEO until 2018.

The idea behind Powered by People was to create a platform that would allow multiple brands to access international markets instead of running a production line.

“As a seasonal brand, we sold three-quarters of our business in the last quarter of the year. But what about the other three quarters of the year? How to ensure the sustainable development of these artisans? I really believed in what we do at Soko and felt that we should do the same for other brands. And this is how Powered by People grew out of that idea,” says Pinovich.

The plan was clear: she wanted to create a market for artisans by giving them access to finance and business tools, such as a customer relationship management platform that helps them manage and grow their business.

“They can track items; We also offer low cost money transfers from the US, our main market. We provide payment rails so they can receive orders in USD. We also provide logistics aggregation,” Pinovich says.

Powered by People is also setting up regional hubs to provide faster delivery times for orders using e-commerce dropshipping options.

Pinovich said she has always been drawn to social enterprises. He said that every item created by artisans always has a backstory.

“The fact that I can align my purpose with a business opportunity and the fact that the artists we work with and a small independent retailer approach our retail business looking for products and stories that inspire customers. You can feel it.” , it’s extremely beneficial,” she said. said.

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