If you ever ask a business owner the hardest obstacle to getting things off the ground, they'll likely tell you access to capital. 26-year-old Topicals CEO and founder Olamide Olowe can relate. As a former freelance consultant, the Texas native sometimes lived paycheck to paycheck, relying on her last paid gig to sustain her between jobs until she was able to get her company off the ground.
Starting as a pre-med student at UCLA with hopes of becoming a dermatologist, and after completing an internship with SheaMoisture, Olowe realized she, too, wanted to introduce a consumer product on the market. After suffering her own bouts with severe skin issues, she took the steps to create a brand where she could marry her two passions. In August 2020, she officially launched the skincare company that she says is transforming the way people feel about skin.
Now, the Topicals founder has found the secret to not only securing capital—she is said to be the youngest Black woman ever to raise more than $10 million in venture funding—but she also knows the importance of building wealth, even with baby steps, as a freelancer or gig worker. She's teaming up with Robinhood for a special campaign on the inaugural National Freelancers Day (March 10, 2023) in the United States, to bring more awareness to the financial struggles they face, while showing them how to make their money grow.
"I was trying to find security in the world of freelancing while also building my company. Those two years were definitely difficult, but it was a time when I was able to learn what was important to me," Olowe shares. "I was able to really understand my expenses and what I could and couldn't live without. That's why I am excited about this partnership because it's authentic to who I am. I've always been someone who was into investing, and I actually started out doing that with Robinhood."
When it comes to gig workers, the young businesswoman points out that buying stock in fractional shares is a great place to start in your journey to building wealth.
"During that time between your big idea and the 'I made it' period, because we're stressed over where the next paycheck will come from, we don't often think about saving or investing," she says. "I was buying fractional shares when I only had $20 or $30 to invest each week, because I understood the value of investing. What I wish existed back then, is Robinhood's new 1% IRA match, it would have also really helped me. It's a wealth building vehicle that is now also available to freelancers, without having to be tied to a bigger corporation. Even as a freelancer, you have to think of wealth in the same way you would when you have a safety blanket or security."
As someone who was able to successfully secure several million dollars in venture funding for her brand, Topicals, we asked the CEO to drop a few gems for other entrepreneurs looking to level up their pitch game.
Understand who you are pitching to and what gets them excited
Make sure you understand what language your investor is speaking, and be sure to speak in that language. Now, this doesn't mean a literal dialect, but more so the topics that get your potential investors light up about.
"I had a friend pitching a beauty brand to investors, who happened to be a room full of men. While they didn't initially relate to her brand or why it was so grand, she ended up explaining it as the Super Bowl of beauty, and they immediately understood why her business would be successful," explains the skincare entrepreneur.
Know your numbers and data
"For me, I always talk about the fact that 1 in 4 Americans live with chronic skin conditions, and people with chronic skin conditions are 2 to 6 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety," Olowe explains. "Giving the investor numbers and data to tie the problem to, you're also emotionally tying it to data."
Raise a plan to execute and execute like you'll never raise again
A final nugget that she shares is that you always want to have a plan for the money you raise, because you never know if you'll get a chance to raise capital for your business again.
"I think we are in a day when Black entrepreneurship is fascinating to folks, and they're understanding that the Black dollar is strong. But, that may not always be the case. So, you can't squander the money you're given," says the beauty founder. "Make sure you have a plant to execute, but then make sure that you execute against that plan so that you're not always dependent on the venture cycle."