The Authorities: The go-to experts for top brands seeking growth
Founder and CEO, A-Frame Brands
After securing $11.2 million in funding in March, brand incubator A-Frame Brands’ founder and CEO, Ari Bloom, has big plans for the company’s future — and diversity is at the forefront. Bloom launched A-Frame Brands in 2019 with the goal of getting funding for brands that fill a need for underrepresented communities. Since its inception, A-Frame’s portfolio has grown to include Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade’s baby skin-care brand, Proudly, Naomi Osaka’s sunscreen brand, Kinló, and John Legend’s soon-to-launch namesake skin-care brand.
A-Frame Brands’ prioritization of diversity is apparent throughout the company. According to A-Frame, 50% of its board members are women and 95% of the larger team is from underrepresented communities.
“Diversity is not a marketing ploy for us and it shouldn’t be for anybody. It’s smart business. Our unique lived experience gives us a unique advantage in the market,” said Bloom. “It’s sad to say that we look that different, but we’ll take it. That’s an advantage”
By the end of the year, A-Frame will launch a wellness brand, and Bloom’s goal is to launch at least two brands per year moving forward.
What was the road to your recent $11.2 million in funding?
“We said we’re not going to take any investments that are not led by women or people of color from a lead investor. We’ve got amazing lead investors: We had Alda Leu Dennis from Initialized Capital, our first lead investor, and then Eurie Kim from Forerunner Ventures. … Statistically, 93% of the investments in VC are made by white men. So if we’re dealing with 7%, that’s the 7% we want to work with and that’s OK. Raising money for individual brands is very difficult. But a platform that has shared services like a Unilever or P&G, but is a lot smaller and more focused on innovation and has DE&I as its core foundational mission, is the right thing to be building right now. From my conversations with the investors, they are as passionate about this as we are.”
Tell me more about why you prioritize funding brands led by minorities.
“It’s common sense that these are smart businesses, but there’s also a social aspect to it that makes it so much more impactful and important to the people starting the businesses. … These [co-founders] are folks who have a strong passion for solving problems for their communities. … [Moving forward], our portfolio is going to be focused on where 30-50% of the population is left behind because of who they are or how they’re born. … We reject the one-size-fits-all approach to product and brand development. We want to be aware of developing brands for communities that are unseen and unheard, yet are the majority or close to majority and are in the highest growth trajectory.”
How are you preparing for a potential recession?
“We were set up for success in an environment like this because we’re already price-point-focused. For all of our brands, most every product is under $20. And we’re focused on product assortments [that meet day-to-day needs], rather than [launching] too many products that are discretionary. We need our products to be functional and necessary.”
What are the main areas of focus for the company in 2023?
“To grow the business, we’ve developed what we call A-Frame Studio, which is an organization within our company that works and develops brands for other operators. While [A-Frame Brands] will focus on personal care and health and wellness, the studio brands can be in any industry. We partner up with [external brands] in the same way that we would [with our portfolio brands], but instead of us operating them, we license the brand to the operating partner. That’s our growth vehicle. It gets us into a lot of other categories that we just don’t have the infrastructure [to manage].”
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